US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Wednesday strongly condemned a proposal by Russian Members of Parliament (MPs) to President Vladimir Putin, asking for the recognition of two separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine as independent republics.

Commenting on the proposal by Russian MPs, Blinken said that if Russia recognised separatist-held regions in Ukraine as independent republics, it would “constitute a gross violation of international law.”

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“Kremlin approval of this appeal would amount to the Russian government’s wholesale rejection of its commitments under the Minsk agreements,” Blinken further said, referring to the 2014 Minsk Protocol that was drawn up to end hostilities in the Donbas region by Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), with mediation by France and Germany.

The 59-year-old US Secretary of State added that Moscow’s recognition of separatists would undermine its “stated commitment to continue to engage in diplomacy to achieve a peaceful resolution of this crisis, and necessitate a swift and firm response from the United States in full coordination with our allies and partners.”

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Blinken’s comments come on the back of a vote in the lower house of the Russian Parliament on Tuesday to urge President Putin to consider recognising the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) as independent states.

The vote took place hours after Russia announced that it would be withdrawing some of its troops from Ukraine’s borders, where Moscow said troops had been posted for military drills.

Since the announcement, however, the US, Ukraine, NATO, and the West at large have put out statements claiming that there has been no withdrawal of Russian troops.

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Blinken echoed similar concerns on Wednesday on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’, saying, “Unfortunately, there’s a difference between what Russia says and what it does. And what we’re seeing is no meaningful pullback. On the contrary, we continue to see forces, especially forces that would be in the vanguard of any renewed aggression against Ukraine, continuing to be at the border, to mass at the border.”

Over the past several weeks, Russia had amassed over 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, sparking fears of an imminent invasion. While Washington continues to maintain that Russia could still invade, despite its claims of a troop withdrawal, Moscow maintains that it is merely seeking security guarantees from the US and its NATO allies.