MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On Saturday, Putin signed a decree to recognize in Russia documents issued to Ukrainian citizens and persons without citizenship living in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, until the situation in these areas is politically settled.
"The decree does not in any way run counter to international law and does not lead to breaches of international law. You know that this is actually a de jure leveling of the situation and of the de facto recognition. It is necessary to do that for humanitarian reasons," Peskov told reporters.
The Donbass conflict erupted in April 2014 as a local counter-reaction to the West-sponsored Maidan coup in Kiev that had toppled legitimate President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions held independence referendums and proclaimed the People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev has since been conducting a military operation, encountering stiff local resistance.
After the eruption of the crisis, over a million of Donbass residents applied for a refugee status and temporary shelter in Russia. According to Russia's Federal Migration Service, more than 1 million people fled to Russia following the outbreak of the civil war in Ukraine, of whom approximately 600,000 decided to settle there permanently.