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MOSCOW — A separatist official in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday called on the Kyiv government to “withdraw” its forces or the region, backed by the Russian military, “would take action,” according to Russian state media. , an ominous warning that could signal a new invasion of Ukraine.

Russia on Monday recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), two separatist regions backed by Moscow. Together they occupy about a third of the oblasts, or regions, of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, but lay claim to all areas.

Territorial claims include the key government-controlled port city of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov.

The text of Russia’s agreement to recognize breakaway regions says it does so within their “existing borders,” but some separatist and Russian officials immediately interpreted it to include territory under the control of the government in Kiev. It provides for the joint enforcement of Russian borders and military bases in the region.

This means that the separatists could launch military action against Ukraine, backed by Russian forces, in an attempt to seize claimed areas, constituting a new Russian invasion.

Almost as soon as the ink was dry on the Kremlin recognition treaty, an official of the separatist LPR parliament, Dmitry Khoroshilov, affirmed the region’s claim to the entire Lugansk region and called on Ukraine to withdraw its forces “voluntarily”, the Russian state reported the RIA Novosti news agency.

“Our territory is the entire Luhansk region. We call on Ukraine to voluntarily withdraw its troops, otherwise action will be taken,” he said.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has continued since 2014, killing nearly 14,000 people.

Earlier, Leonid Kalashnikov, head of Russia’s Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs Committee in the country’s lower house of parliament, or State Duma, said the treaty “did not specify” which territory was recognized, but he said he thought he covered all of Luhansk. and separatist-claimed Donetsk oblasts.

The ambiguity echoed from one official to another, leaving Russia with leeway to interpret the deal as it sees fit.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the “nuances” would be ironed out later. Andrei Klimov, deputy chairman of the upper house’s foreign affairs committee, told state television that Russia recognizes the “real borders”, adding: “We will remind you that part of the territories of the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk is controlled by Kyiv”.

The Russian parliament was expected to approve the recognition treaties on Tuesday.

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