On the eve of Angela Merkel and François Hollande's meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) made a concrete push for Putin's vision of eastern Ukraine.
The self-proclaimed, largely unrecognized DPR moved closer to unifying with the other region that has forcefully broken away by declaring itself the legal successor of a 1918 self-proclaimed Soviet republic.
"We, the deputies of the Donetsk People's Republic, aware of our responsibility before the past and paving the road for the future, proclaim the continuation of the tradition of the Donetsk-Krivoy-Rog Republic and announce that the state of Donetsk People's Republic is her successor," the memorandum stated, according to Gazeta.ru.
The Donetsk-Krivoy-Rog Republic declared independence from Ukraine on Feb. 12, 1918. And then, 36 days later, it was incorporated into the Ukraine Soviet Republic — that is, one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union.
On Friday, the DPR's memorandum was sent over to another self-proclaimed state, Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), according to a report from Interfax. One of the leaders of the DPR, Andrei Purgin, noted that the leadership of the LPR is in talks with Luhansk to synchronize the legislative activity.
"Memorandum on state-building and continuity of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog republic will be adopted also in LPR," he said.
That the DPR adopted the document indicates that the project of "Novorossiya," or New Russia, a term Putin has used, is ongoing and that the breakaway republics are starting to move toward unification, according to the coordinator of the press Center of Novorossiay, Daria Mazeva.
"The DPR published a memorandum declaring themselves as heirs of the Donestk-Krivoy-Rog Republic in order to push the idea of federalization of Ukraine and possibly control more territory, given the Hollande-Merkel-Putin talks," a person familiar with the matter told Business Insider. "This can be considered a means for the further expansion of the DPR and the LPR, and possibly the two states coming closer together."
The Russian government has supported federalization in Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea in March 2014. Federalization would give greater autonomy to the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine where there is ongoing conflict right now.
"Each region [in Ukraine] would have control of its economy, taxes, culture, language, education, and 'external economic and cultural connections with neighboring countries or regions,'" Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has previously stated about the "federalization" plan, according to The Guardian.
Further, the rebel regions are declaring themselves the successors of a Soviet region that included lands currently under control of Ukraine. Given that Russian troops and weaponry have helped rebels conquer more and more territory over the last six months, the military implications of the memorandum are alarming.
If Russian troops and rebels push further toward the historical boundaries of the Donestk-Krivoy-Rog Republic, they would need to conquer the strategically vital port city of Mariupol.
Taking Mariupol would connect the rebel-held regional capital Donetsk to the north, the sea, and the land route to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in March.
And the city of 500,000 is vital for eastern Ukraine's steel and grain exports, which make the city a desirable target for a budding pseudo state that's struggling economically.
As geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer noted in November, it looks like "the Kremlin is moving towards making Crimea and southeast Ukraine a single place."
And it's notable that the DPR has some heavy-duty support for the decree.
"The historical continuity has value only when it is supported by resources. And their main resource — is the position of Russia," Professor Valery Solovey told Gazeta.ru.
So while Merkel and Hollande meeting with Putin in Moscow, the Kremlin-backed rebels made a serious move in Europe's backyard.
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