(Edit - Feb 22nd: seeing the events of the last 12 hours I feel kind of dirty for asking this question, which I did before reading about Russia's recognition - though I was aware the Duma had helpfully "suggested" this to Putin last week.)
Russia seems to be looking at the de jure Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk to claim atrocities against ethnic Russians there to "do something" in Ukraine.
The 2 territories have been de facto out of Ukrainian control since 2014 and border areas have seen occasional clashes, with 14,000 deaths to date.
Out of the 5M residents, 750k have been granted Russian passports by Russia.
The Minsk II accords have a federalization component that would give those 2 territories a big say on overall Ukrainian foreign policy. Given that Russia is suspected of pulling their strings that could mean putting Russia in charge. In addition, Ukraine is expected to pay salaries and pensions to an area it doesn't control.
I understand such an, unilateral, move has the following drawbacks:
- "rewarding" Russia for aggression
- losing national territory. This is unlikely to be popular.
- no guarantee that Putin won't find another pretext. Among other things the separatists may have additional claims.
- abandoning loyal Ukrainians in place (but they could always be taken in)
- outside of an agreement, Ukraine loses a bargaining chip (then again, are Russian agreements worth pursuing, for Ukraine?)
In 2014, I believe, there were massive riots when the Ukrainian government wanted to implement federal decentralization to the 2 territories. 4 policemen died.
This would be different, not granting them special rights or special powers over Ukraine at large. Just booting them out. Reintegrated into Ukraine, who would believe those 2 territories would be loyal to the central government rather than Moscow?
Have any Ukraine politicians or parties proposed this?
p.s. In the developing (as of Feb 24th) full-on invasion, Ukrainian troops concentrated at the Luhansk/Donetsk frontline seem to be a particular risk of being cut off by a pincer move around them, as is reported in a number of places.
The larger attack will seek to encircle Ukrainian forces near Donbas. Russian-led units there may serve as a pinning force, while the main Russian grouping would advance from the north-east by Kharkiv and from Crimea in the south. In this scenario, Moscow would try to prevent Ukrainian forces from being able to conduct an organised retreat to more defensible terrain west of the Dnieper river.