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The Kremlin changes its Donbas war narrative

Putin’s personal advisor Vladislav Surkov is often called the “grey cardinal” of the Kremlin. RFE/RL Graphics
Article by: Vitaly Portnikov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

The Russian president’s personal advisor Vladislav Surkov has stated that the insane declaration by the chieftain of the Donetsk militants Alexander Zakharchenko (regarding the creation of the “new country of Malorossiya“– Ed.) was due to the fact that “the Donbas is fighting not for separation from Ukraine but for its inseparability, for the entire Ukraine and not just for a part of it. In other words, there is a ‘civil war’ in Ukraine between people who see the future of their country differently.”

This is a completely new view of the events associated with Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Because, at the beginning of the undeclared war, it was considered that the struggle was for “Novorossiya,” which the Bolsheviks supposedly gave to Ukrainians. This is what Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about in the “Crimean speech.” When it became clear that the Russian offensive in the east was faltering, (the Russians) moved to create some new “Donbas” nation with its own mentality that was different from the Ukrainian one. After all, it is not by chance, for example, that the word “Moldovan” appears in the name of Transnistria (Pridnestrovie) , the separatist enclave in Moldova. But the word “Ukrainian” is absent in the names of DNR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LNR (Luhansk People’s Republic). The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) was created as another Moldova. And DNR and LNR were created as the “anti-Ukraine” territory that had nothing in common with its own state and had only one dream — to join Russia under any conditions. Even when there was talk about territorial integrity it meant the “restoration” of the territorial integrity of DNR and LNR within the boundaries of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. And now, suddenly, it turns out that Zakharchenko is fighting not for the detachment of the Donbas but for its reunification with Ukraine. Who would have thought! Interesting. Is Zakharchenko aware of it himself?

Well, if he doesn’t know he will soon find out. This is because Surkov’s words testify to the Kremlin’s desire to get rid of the “people’s republics.” Russian officials simply do not know yet how and under what conditions. Naturally, they really would like to return the occupied part of the Donbas to an “obedient” pro-Kremlin Ukraine, but for now they have begun to expound on the wholeness of the country, on the “civil war” between people who have different ideas about the future of this entire country. After all, in a civil war it is possible that the Ukrainians could win as well as the “Malorussians.” And what would Surkov do in the event of such a victory? Well, nothing special — just shrug: the country’s unity has been preserved. If there is no “Russian” Donbas, if there is no “Novorossiya” but only “Malorossiya,” which is transformed into Ukraine with the wave of a hand, then what is there to argue about? As Surkov explained to his assistants, the main thing is that this is an “internal Ukrainian discussion.” Simply put — prepare for the surrender of the occupied part of the Donbas.

The same fate awaits occupied Crimea. Yes, today the peninsula is considered to be “an integral part of the Russian Federation,” but this is true as long as an insane Putin sits in the Kremlin. And after the inevitable collapse of his regime, Crimea will likely become the only commodity that Russia can use to trade with the West, the only opportunity to prove its commitment to international law. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, it will turn out that “annexation” of the peninsula is against this very law and that everyone knew it but was afraid to say so.

And if certain Crimean residents still have a different idea of their own future at that time, this will become part of  the “internal Ukrainian discussion.” Russia will have nothing to do with it.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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