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The Daily Vertical: Passports, Banknotes, And Blackmail (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Passports and banknotes are Russia's latest weapons of choice in Ukraine.

Not only has Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow will recognize passports issued by separatist authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk; but now the self-styled "Luhansk People's Republic" has made the Russian ruble its official currency.

As the Minsk contact group on Ukraine prepares to meet in the Belarusian capital this week, it appears that the Kremlin is sending a not-so-subtle message to Kyiv and the West.

What Moscow appears to be saying is that if Russia doesn't get its way in the Donbas, then it is prepared to up the ante and possibly recognize the independence of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics.

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If the Minsk agreement isn't implemented the way Moscow wants and if the Russian-controlled territories aren't re-integrated into Ukraine with broad autonomy -- autonomy that would effectively turn Ukraine into a failed state -- then the Kremlin is ready to escalate the conflict politically.

If Minsk isn't implemented the way Russia wants, then Russia is prepared to blow up the agreement and freeze the conflict in the Donbas.

Call it the Georgia-ization of Ukraine. Donetsk and Luhansk would become the new Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Or call it Minsk blackmail.

It could be a bluff. But even so, is should be a clear signal that the Minsk agreement -- which Moscow agreed to in bad faith and Ukraine agreed to with a gun to its head -- is dead in the water.

And we're now entering the post-Minsk world.

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