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ISW: Russia intensifies rhetoric of Ukraine partitioning likely trying to normalize it in West

Russia is using unrelated topics to promote the hypothetical partition of Ukraine, seeking to normalize this narrative in Western discussions, per ISW.
russia aims erode ukraine support us 2024 election meddling officials say view st basil's cathedral red square moscow 17 march 2020 sefa karacan/anadolu agency - re
A view of St. Basil’s Cathedral at the Red Square in Moscow on 17 March 2020. Source: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency
ISW: Russia intensifies rhetoric of Ukraine partitioning likely trying to normalize it in West

The US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says that Russia is intensifying “rhetoric pushing for the hypothetical partition of Ukraine by seizing on innocuous and unrelated topics,” likely in an “attempt to normalize the partition narrative in Western discussions about Ukraine.”

Deputy Chairperson of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev suggested on 5 February that European intentions to build a railway connecting Spain to Lviv City indicate Western recognition of Lviv City as the potential new capital of Ukraine within Lviv Oblast after the resolution of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

It’s important to clarify that the railway project is unrelated to Ukrainian borders or the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine; it’s an independent European infrastructure initiative. Nevertheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials have been promoting a narrative that justifies the invasion of Ukraine as a historical conquest. In December 2023, they suggested the possibility of partitioning Ukraine and leaving it as a “sovereign” entity within Lviv Oblast’s borders. This proposal gained attention, particularly among some right-wing nationalist politicians in Central Europe.

Medvedev’s recent claims, posted in English on social media, seem aimed at an international audience. They align with Russia’s campaign to portray Ukraine as artificially constructed, possibly to reduce Western support and promote discussions of Ukraine ceding territory to Russia. ISW believes Putin still seeks complete Ukrainian and Western capitulation.

Russian ultranationalists remain aligned with the Kremlin’s maximalist goals in Ukraine, emphasizing that negotiations won’t bring lasting peace. Prominent Russian figure Alexander Khodakovsky argued that only war and victory by either Russia or Ukraine could achieve lasting peace, dismissing the idea of a truce.

Khodakovsky further asserted that the current static warfare situation prevents Russian forces from wearing down Ukrainian forces across the entire front, emphasizing the need to pressure Ukraine and force them to allocate more resources to all fronts. This approach aligns with Russian ultranationalist support for maximalist goals, making it incompatible with meaningful negotiations for an armistice or lasting peace.

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