In a Feb. 21 speech, the Russian leader declared the independence of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR). He also signed decrees recognizing the DPR and LPR as sovereign states. "I consider it necessary to take a long-overdue decision: to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of [the] DPR and LPR," he said.
"Otherwise, all responsibility for the possible continuation on the bloodshed will be entirely on the conscience of the regime ruling on the territory of Ukraine," Putin continued. On the same day as his speech, he mobilized troops into the DPR and LPR to "maintain peace." According to the Daily Mail, there are now an estimated 190,000 Russian troops at the Ukrainian border alongside air support.
Putin's Feb. 21 speech also took swipes at the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). "Who is the main enemy for the U.S. and NATO? We know that too. It's Russia. In NATO documents, our country is officially and directly declared the main threat to North Atlantic security," he said. The Russian leader accused NATO of being responsible for the current crisis in Ukraine and the U.S. of "pumping in weapons" to the smaller country.
The Daily Mail said in its report that Putin's recognition of the DPR and LPR "paves the way for the long-feared Russian invasion." It added that the move "opens the door for Russia to sign treaties with the two 'states' and openly send troops and weapons there to defend them against Ukrainian 'threats.'"
A senior official in the Biden administration said Putin's Feb. 21 speech was not only just about Russia's security, but also a larger plan involving Ukraine. "He made clear that he views Ukraine historically as part of Russia, and he made a number of false claims about Ukraine's intention that seems designed to excuse possible military action. This was a speech to the Russian people to justify war," the official said. (Related: Russia warns Ukraine of full-scale conflict along the country's eastern border.)
Former intelligence officer and Brighteon.TV host Jeffrey Prather touched on mercenaries standing in for Russian soldiers on the Feb. 18 edition of his program "Prather Point." He mentioned several attacks in Ukraine's disputed regions, but said he takes these reports with a grain of salt as these may possibly be false flags.
"[The reason] why I am so skeptical of this is because PMCs – private military companies, contractors or I like to use the old term 'mercenaries' – especially from the Wagner group have been redeployed from Africa to the Ukrainian front. The Biden administration and Western officials are claiming that mercenaries linked to Russian spies have increased their presence in Ukraine."
Prather cited an article from British outlet iNews about the Wagner PMC's presence in Ukraine. It featured an interview with Dr. Dan Lomas of Brunel University London. According to the intelligence and security studies lecturer, the mercenary group has had a presence in eastern Ukraine since 2014 to aid Russian-backed separatist rebels.
Lomas said the increase of Wagner PMC mercenaries in Ukraine could fit into Moscow's narrative of it pulling out troops in the contested areas – with mercenaries taking their place. "It allows the Russian government to muddy the waters and say [the mercenaries] are not officially linked to Russia itself. Where Russia wants to extend their influence, you'll see Wagner [mercenaries] on the ground," he told iNews.
The article said the Wagner PMC is made up of individuals who have served in the Russian armed forces and Russian intelligence agencies. The individuals have also been contracted by foreign governments and groups involved in various conflicts around the globe, such as in Syria and Libya. "That's interesting, because the U.S. government has [also] been involved in Syria and Libya," Prather commented on this observation.
Watch Jeffrey Prather talking about the Ukraine conflict on "Prather Point."
This video is from the Brighteon.TV channel on Brighteon.com.
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