As of today, many people believe that Putin wants to go to war. This is not entirely correct. Yes, he wants war, but he does not want Russia to go to war. He wants civil war in Ukraine. He does not want to kill Ukrainians with Russian guns. He wants Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars in Ukraine to kill each other. Responding to the question, “Do you want to make a grab for Crimea?”, Putin lowers his gaze modestly and wordlessly says: “No, no, not now! First – civil war.”
The main goal of the ongoing Russian provocations of the past few days and the days to come is to provoke civil war in Ukraine. Here is what the Russian leadership undertakes towards this goal:
- 1. Rude, undiplomatic language by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- 2. Moving the regiments belonging to Central and Western Military Regions near Ukrainian borders
- 3. Anti-Ukrainian hate-speech and propaganda by Russian Members of Parliament in statements delivered in Sevastopol
- 4. Occupation of the Crimean Parliament buildings and airports in Sevastopol and Simferopol
- 5. “Appointment” by Russian-backed separatists of a “figure of authority” as Crimean Prime Minister. The said figure heads a party that managed to collect a full 3% of the vote during the last elections to Crimean Parliament
- 6. Defacing the Ukrainian flag, insults, lies and anti-Ukrainian hate speech and propaganda in Russian newspapers and on Russian television
- 7. Cynical praise for the “heroes of Berkut”, the sadists, who murdered, tortured and beat protesters in Kyiv on the orders of Yanukovych’s junta
- 8. The harboring of Yanukovych, a fugitive mass murderer and dictator, for his “statements” on remaining the legal president of Ukraine, which he read from a Kremlin-supplied paper during his speech in Rostov
- 9. A campaign by Internet and mail aimed at drafting Russian “tourists” who have a military background and are physically fit, urging them to “pack some gear and head to the Ukrainian territory”.
It is obvious that many of these provocations amount to deliberate and demonstrative insults directed at Ukraine, its people, its national symbols, and its national sentiments. The goal of these insults is to provoke a rebuke, preferably in the form of aggression. In the last few days, people in Ukraine have started to demand that the Ukrainian government “suppress the bandits and terrorists’ activities with lawful force”. Unfortunately, use of lawful force is what Putin’s campaign seeks. They want the use of lawful force – preferably, the use of lawful force that results in casualties and deaths.
They need token victims of violence. The violence does not need to be very specific. The victims may be the victims of potential actions by the government, political confrontation in the streets, civil unrest, or religious clashes. The victims’ ethnicity does not matter. They can be Russian, Ukrainian, or Tatar. They can live in the west, east, or central part of Ukraine. They can come from the south or from Lviv, Kharkiv, Crimea or Odessa. They can have any kind of political views, from Right Sector to Russian Unity. Military, civilians, Christians or Muslims – Putin welcomes every dead or wounded person. And, of course, assaults on Jews and synagogues would always make him happy too.
He wants corpses – the more, the better. He needs a Ukrainian version of “Two thousand peaceful Ossetians – murdered!” And he wants civil war, not just some “unrest”.
If he manages to start such a civil war, it will serve the following purposes:
- 1. For Russians and Ukrainians in Russia, it will be proof of what Russian television has dutifully been serving up every day: Ukraine overwhelmed by chaos, a living catastrophe of a country.
- 2. For the rest of the world, it will be a demonstration of Putin’s thesis of 2008 that he shamelessly proclaimed in Bucharest during the NATA summit of NATO – that “Ukraine is a failed state”.
- 3. Civil war makes people easy prey for the Kremlin’s promises to instal and keep “order”. Such order will be implemented, of course, through Russia’s military occupation of Ukraine. In case of civil war, such occupation may seem necessary if the alternative is an ongoing slaughter. Even the UN Security Council will see it that way, not to mention the people in Crimea and Kharkiv. Then Putin will “deign to concede to the people’s pleas with a heavy heart”.
Once “order” is established, he can proceed to silence and butcher all those who dare to destabilize his bloody hold over Russia by showing their Russian neighbors that dictators can be toppled and by exposing the mechanisms through which these dictators hold onto their power.
The single most important task of the new Ukrainian government and of all Ukrainian citizens today is to survive, to endure, to show patience, to show restraint. To not allow yourselves to be provoked into what would turn into a mass suicide. To not allow yourselves or your country to be sacrificed by a neighbouring dictator.
Translated Anna Palagina, edited by Lesia Stangret