The abrupt Russian move is also a setback for efforts to end the war that has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014, a goal that already seems "a long way" off, OSCE Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier said in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Radio Liberty reported.
Meeting in Munich on February 18, the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, and mediators Germany and France agreed to a new push to implement a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists hold parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, to begin on February 20.
Read alsoU.S. Embassy in Kyiv: Russian recognition of "DPR/LPR" passports inconsistent with MinskAt the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order authorizing the recognition of documents issued by the separatist-led, self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic.
"The steps taken last night [February 18] by Russia to recognize these documents are making implementation more difficult," Zannier said of the agreement known as Minsk II, a much-violated February 2015 accord that imposed a ceasefire and set out a plan for resolving the conflict.
The Russian move "implies…recognition of those who issue the documents, of course," Zannier said.
"This makes us think of Abkhazia-like situations," he said, referring to one of two breakaway Georgian regions that Russia recognized as independent countries after fighting a brief war against Georgia in 2008.
Russia has not formally recognized the self-proclaimed separatist entities in Ukraine as independent, and Moscow's stated position is that they should be part of Ukraine. Analysts say Russia hopes to continue to use them as long as it can to destabilize Ukraine and maintain pressure on its pro-Western government.