President Vladimir Putin said Russia would decide on Monday whether or not to recognise two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.
He made the remark at the end of a televised meeting of his Security Council in which a series of officials spoke of the situation in the two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine.
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Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian government forces in the Donbas region since 2014, in a conflict that Kyiv says has cost around 15,000 lives.
A Russian recognition of the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk territories would bury a fragile peace process regulating the long-running conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Western countries have warned Russia not to recognise the separatist republics, with the United States saying it would constitute a “gross violation of international law”.
Putin listened to Russia’s top officials taking turns to make the case for recognition for an hour and a half at the meeting on Monday in the Kremlin.
The Russian leader sat behind a table as he called up his security, defence, intelligence and other top officials one by one to make their case.
The meeting, which took place in the early afternoon, was aired on state television.
“I have heard your opinions. The decision will be taken today,” the Russian leader said.
Earlier on Monday, the rebel leaders of the self-declared republics made a coordinated appeal to Putin for Moscow to recognise them.
The Russian parliament has also asked Putin to recognise the pro-Moscow separatist territories, which declared themselves independent of Kyiv’s rule after Ukraine’s 2014 pro-European Union revolution.
The looming decision over recognition of the territories comes as the Ukraine conflict escalated sharply on Monday, with Moscow claiming it had killed five Ukrainian “saboteurs” who crossed its border.
Ukraine said, “Not a single one of our soldiers has crossed the border with the Russian Federation, and not a single one has been killed today.”