In the context of the recognition of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic by Russia, I cannot seem to find whether the territories of said republics correspond only to what they currently control (22/02/2022) or include the original territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.

In the Wikipedia article for Donetsk it says it includes all the original territory (Donetsk Oblast, I think). However, it does not say if Russia recognizes all of it. Same for Luhansk.

It would follow that if Russia recognizes the whole Oblasts, Ukraine is currently occupying those territories. Which would be a clear casus belli for Russia.

Obviously, I understand that the situation is more complex than this, but this point could be important to understand the next actions by Russia (mainly).

  • The CB is irrelevant since Russia will never declare a war. But yes, they could as well try to fully occupy the two republics at some later moment if they decide that the current governments is able to stay in power. Since this will require actual combat with Ukrainian troops, it would be a serious step-up in the escalation of the conflict and it won't be without consequences. I think that it is highly unlikely that this will happen in 2022 if it happens at all. Feb 23, 2022 at 18:05
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    @mmomtchev now that aged like milk Feb 24, 2022 at 18:32
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    I never expected this, I think it is a catastrophically bad decision - and probably the biggest military blunder since Barbarossa. Even if Russia is able to fully occupy Ukraine - which they probably will, but at great cost - what do they expect next? Ukraine is not a military dictatorship that can be overthrown - they are looking at a very long and very painful military occupation. This war is going to be far more costly than Afghanistan. Feb 24, 2022 at 18:43
  • @Gallifreyan it was clearly a question of the moment. It was rapidly superseded by events. Still, it keeps some relevance even in the event of a puppet government is installed in Ukraine, as that state will need defined borders.
    – m e
    Feb 25, 2022 at 10:24

5 Answers 5


Updated answer:

President Putin addressed this issue in a press conference around 16:45 UTC on February 22nd:

As for the borders, within what borders will we recognize these republics. We recognized them, which means we recognized their constitutions. And the constitutions spelled out the borders within the Donetsk and Luhansk regions - at the time when they were part of Ukraine.

This means that, according to Putin, Russia recognises the territory of the LPR & DPR to include all of the yellow-shaded territory in the map below, courtesy of the New York Times. This represents the entirety of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts, including territory currently controlled by Ukraine.

image of the eastern end of Ukraine and part of Russia. Luhansk and Donetsk are shaded yellow and labelled 'claimed by separatists, held by Ukraine' and a darker yellow shaded area on the south-east point labelled 'held by Russian-backed separatists'

Original answer follows:

It's not currently clear - the decrees signed by President Putin, "On the recognition of the Donetsk People's Republic" and "On the recognition of the Luhansk People's Republic" don't refer to territorial claims, and there have been several contradicting answers from Russian officials.

Article 7 of both treaties as ratified by the State Duma (Luhansk, Donetsk) state:

The Contracting Parties confirm and respect the territorial integrity and inviolability of the existing borders of the Russian Federation and the [Luhansk People's Republic / Donetsk People's Republic]. The Parties shall conclude a separate agreement on the State border between the Russian Federation and the [Luhansk People's Republic / Donetsk People's Republic]. The protection of the State border of the [Luhansk People's Republic / Donetsk People's Republic] shall be carried out jointly by the Contracting Parties in the interests of their own security and peace and stability. The Contracting Parties will conclude a separate agreement on this matter.

This lines up with the statement to Rossiyskaya Gazeta by the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, who said that "the issue of the borders of the LPR and the DPR would be resolved after the ratification of the friendship treaty".

The Deputy Foreign Minister, Andrei Rudenko, however, responded to a question from Interfax, stating that the recognised borders are "the borders within which the DPR and LPR leaderships operate and have jurisdiction".

On the other hand, in a press briefing held by Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, he initially defined the extent of territorial recognition as being "within the borders that they have proclaimed themselves", but didn't not expand on this when questioned. Meduza.io carries the transcript of the conference:

CNN: Regarding the recognition of the sovereignty of the DNR and LNR, tell me, are we talking about recognizing them in their current, de facto borders or within the borders of the entire Luhansk and Donetsk regions? As we understand it, these are a bit different.

Dmitry Peskov: Within the borders that they have proclaimed themselves.

CNN: Proclaimed at what point?

Dmitry Peskov: Well, when these two republics were proclaimed.

Bloomberg: Can you elaborate on this issue?

Dmitry Peskov: No, I have nothing to add.

Ekho Moskvy: Do these borders include Mariupol, for example?

Dmitry Peskov: I have nothing to add to this. Within the borders in which they exist and have been proclaimed.

Ekho Moskvy: In which they exist or were proclaimed?

Dmitry Peskov: Well, in which they were proclaimed and exist.

Ekho Moskvy: Meaning, within the current borders?

Dmitry Peskov: I have nothing to add to this.

BBC News: Can you clarify? I don’t quite understand: Will the recognition of the people’s republics mean the borders that exist now or those that they’ve proclaimed themselves?

Dmitry Peskov: Within the borders in which these republics were proclaimed.

BBC News: In 2014? Meaning, the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions?

Dmitry Peskov: In this case, I’ve said everything I can on this subject.

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    Great answer. Being intentionally ambiguous about this issue is a part of their strategy. Russia left enough space to claim it's either the current or claimed borders, whatever suits them at a given time.
    – dbkk
    Feb 23, 2022 at 1:17
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    Carefully worded to leave the Ukrainian armed forces, in Ukraine, appearing to be the invaders. Feb 23, 2022 at 14:57
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    Peskov was being 100% clear. Russia will take whatever it can get away with. That's what that means.
    – J...
    Feb 23, 2022 at 18:06

Political recognition primarily means recognizing a government as legitimate, which means having diplomatic relations with this government, concluding economic and military treaties, etc. On the other hand, laying claims to territories is not up to Russia, but to the governments of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. Russia may agree or disagree with these claims, as well as have its word, if these claims are ever discussed in the UN.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a good example where the recognition of the State of Israel by many countries does not automatically imply recognition of this state's sovereignty over east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or those parts of the West Bank that are considered Israeli territory under Israeli law.


As of time of writing, it is "strategically ambiguous".

But [the mutual assistance treaties between Russia and the DPR/LPR] do not clarify whether Russia is recognising the republics’ sovereignty inside their current border, which is defined by the 200-mile contact-line with Ukrainian forces, or their original claim to the entire territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, known as the Donbas.

The omission creates a useful strategic ambiguity while the Kremlin weighs its next move.

Last night the deputy speaker of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Moscow would stick to the separatist-held areas - which would suggest Mr Putin is seeking to avoid a full-scale war while maintaining an implicit threat.

But this morning Leonid Kalashnikov, who chairs the State Duma’s committee on CIS affairs, said he thinks the decree refers “to the statehood, which was approved in the old referendum and the only one that was held in other borders than those currently occupied by the DPR.”

That would imply an all-out offensive against the Ukrainian government, which holds two-thirds of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Mr Kalashnikov later said he was only expressing an “opinion,” and it is unlikely that the Kremlin will make its decision known via MPs.

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    Kalashnikov is representing the opposition communist party, so what he saing has not much to do with oficial russian point of view.
    – convert
    Feb 22, 2022 at 14:34
  • @convert: Remember that the Russian Communist Party nowadays is basically in bed with United Russia.
    – Vikki
    Feb 23, 2022 at 15:36

According to politologist Vitaly Portnikov, this is left ambiguous. I would add intentionally ambiguous. As such, it allows to either invade all of Ukraine using the false pretense of helping LPR and DPR puppet regimes, or postpone the invasion until the West blinks.

In any case, Putin can always do more Gleiwitz style false flag attacks. Not sure if invasion expansion really helps him at the present juncture. He has the support of everyone he can get support from today. Putin is all set and probably calculates that any day is a good day for hybrid or other warfare for him to continue.

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    Can you provide sources?
    – qwr
    Feb 23, 2022 at 7:50

In his speech, which I just saw on TV, president Putin said that Russia recognized the republics within the borders that they have proclaimed themselves. So Russia recognized land currently held by Ukraine as sovereign territory of the LPR/DPR. But he also said that the republics should get that territory back by negotiations with Ukraine.

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    And you believe him? Didn't he say last week that they had no intention of going into Ukraine and these were just coincidental "military exercises"? He used to say he had no intention to rule forever yet he we are. He's Russia's Tsar till he dies. Feb 23, 2022 at 0:16
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    Can you add a source for this speech, if available?
    – qwr
    Feb 23, 2022 at 7:49
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    @Hannover Fist This is not a curch, so questions about believe is a bit out of place. I just quoted what Putin said on TV regarding the question.
    – convert
    Feb 23, 2022 at 11:31
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    You didn't quote, you paraphrased and you also didn't link to a transcript of the speech/statement, so it's not even that.
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 23, 2022 at 16:37
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    @CGCampbell Sorry, my bad english.
    – convert
    Feb 23, 2022 at 16:39

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