Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. AP
"Russia calls on other states to follow its example," Moscow's foreign ministry said in a statement. It added that Moscow's recognition of the rebels -- condemned by the West -- was "not easy, but the only possible step."
President Vladimir Putin recognized separatists and ordered the Russian army to send troops there as "peacekeepers".
The decision was "dictated primarily by humanitarian considerations" and "intended to serve as a guarantee for a peaceful life" in the Donetsk and Lugansk rebel republics, the Russian foreign minister said.
This came as other NATO members denounced the decision and warned Moscow of the upcoming sanctions that the European Union would impose, to counter the Russian move.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi slammed the Russian move and described it as an “unacceptable violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty, on Tuesday morning.
"We consider the decision unacceptable", said Erdogan, who is currently in Senegal, "We invite the parties concerned to act with common sense and comply with the international law", he added.
"This is an unacceptable violation of Ukraine's democratic sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Draghi, who said the EU was already defining "measures and sanctions against Russia".
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi
Unlike most other NATO members Turkey and Italy enjoy good relations with Moscow.
Italy has historically relatively friendly ties with Putin, backed by strong, long-standing investments by Italian corporations in Russia, but since the installation of Mario Draghi as prime minister in February 2021, Draghi has stressed Italy's commitments to the EU and NATO.
While Turkey has enjoyed burgeoning trade and defence ties with Moscow, Ankara purchased Russian S-400 missile system in defiance of criticism from the West.
**This story was edited by Ahram Online