Europe

Russia now recognizes Ukrainian rebel documents, passports

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, attends a concert opening the 10th Winter International Arts Festival in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. At right is singer of the Mariinsky Theatre, Yevgeny Chernyadyev. At left is opera singer Dara Savinova. (Alexei Druzhinin/Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, attends a concert opening the 10th Winter International Arts Festival in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. At right is singer of the Mariinsky Theatre, Yevgeny Chernyadyev. At left is opera singer Dara Savinova. (Alexei Druzhinin/Pool Photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order for Russia to recognize passports and other documents issued by separatist rebel authorities in eastern Ukraine.

The signing, announced by the Kremlin on Saturday, brought sharp criticism from Ukrainian officials. Ukraine's national security council head, Oleksander Turchynov, said the order effectively means that Russia is recognizing the rebel authorities and is abandoning the Minsk Agreement, a two-year-old stalemated plan to end the war between the government and the Russia-backed separatists.

However a Russian lawmaker, Vladimir Dzhabarov, said the measure does not formally recognize the rebel authorities as legitimate.

Some rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine borders Russia, and Ukrainians will never forget that Russia annexed their Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

More than 9,800 people have died in the war in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.