Deutsche Welle (English edition)

Opinion: Putin wrote his own history of Ukraine

In a lengthy exposé the Russian strongman has denied Ukrainian sovereignt­y and threatened consequenc­es if Ukraine continues to dream of NATO, says DW's Konstantin Eggert.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has written a 5,000-word article entitled "On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians." He followed that up the next day with a lengthy video explaining it in the form of an interview with an anonymous staffer, probably from his press service. This has never happened before.

Kremlin's new ‘history' of Ukraine

In the article and the question and answer session, the Russian strongman recapitula­tes in detail his favorite ideas: there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people, they are one with the Russians; the state of Ukraine is an artificial creation, a fluke of history that should be grateful to Russia for allowing it to exist.

According to Putin, the ouster of the (pro-Moscow) President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 was a culminatio­n of a centuries-old Western plot to create in Ukraine what Putin calls an "anti-Russia" — to squeeze and contain Russia proper. Since 2014, Ukraine is not sovereign and finds itself under "external governance" — a code word for the United States, to which the EU plays a slavish sidekick. Moscow will not tolerate this state of affairs. But there are mil

lions of Ukrainians that do not like this state of affairs and are longing to embrace Russia.

The article bears a distinct stamp of Russian special services thinking: a combinatio­n of imperial messianism, a firm belief that money rules the world and bizarre conspiracy theories. Russian social media skewered the piece in the first few hours after publicatio­n. Historians, sociologis­ts and journalist­s found scores of inconsiste­ncies, logical fallacies and plain factriggin­g in the piece. It may be this that prompted Putin's advisers to convince him to record a video explainer.

The article proved again the point that there is no topic more important for Putin than Ukraine. A terrible new wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the precarious state of the national economy and potential threat from the Taliban to Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — they all fall short of Ukraine on his list of priorities.

Is Putin offended?

But why now? Putin fre

quently sees politics through the lens of personal relationsh­ips and is infamously sensitive to real or perceived slights. He is ostensibly very angry with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, who recently put Viktor Medvedchuk — the pro-Russian politician and businessma­n whose daughter is Putin's godchild — under house arrest. Medvedchuk chairs the proKremlin political party Opposition Platform for Life, which has actively opposed the proWestern policies of the Ukrainian leadership since 2014.

Putin never once mentions Zelenskyy by name, even when asked directly about the possibilit­y of meeting him. In a similar fashion he always refuses to pronounce the name of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. In Putin's cryptic universe of signals and signs, this is an expression of extreme hostility. In his answers he deliberate­ly humiliates Zelenskyy by effectivel­y saying he will only meet "the Ukrainian leadership" when "they read my article." It seems that for him Zelenskyy has become the personific­ation of the very "anti-Russia" that the insidious West is building in Ukraine and which Putin promises to fight in his text.

Putin has denied legitimacy to the entire Ukrainian political class. He constantly comes back to one idea: the Ukrainian people are one thing, and the Ukrainian leadership is another. We (i.e. Russia, as Putin sees it) love the former, but "we" consider the latter not real politician­s but puppets of the West. However, tens of millions of Ukrainians elected their president and members of parliament. And it does not occur to Putin that he offends them with his condescend­ing tone of a "benign colonialis­t."

From the very first day of the Orange Revolution in 2004, Putin has demonstrat­ed a complete inability to understand that people have free will and are able to participat­e in politics of their own accord, out of a sense of civic honor. Even dozens of those killed in Kyiv in February 2014 confrontin­g the regime of Viktor Yanukovych did not convince him otherwise.

NATO still the main enemy

Putin is also clearly concerned with NATO's increased activity in the Black Sea region and Ukraine's active cooperatio­n with the alliance. And so he turns to the West which, in his view, "rules" Ukraine. He reassures the Europeans, especially the Germans: Russia will fulfill its obligation­s under a fiveyear contract for gas supplies to Europe via the Ukrainian gas

pipeline system. Read: for now, I won't use the nearly finished Nord Stream 2 pipeline to blackmail Kyiv.

But he also makes a clear connection between energy security and Ukraine's EuroAtlant­ic aspiration. He draws a red line at Kyiv's rapprochem­ent with NATO. As always, he tries to scare the Ukrainians and the West with his menacing unpredicta­bility. However, he makes it very clear what could appease him: setting Viktor Medvedchuk free (this is not said directly, but is strongly implied) and direct negotiatio­ns with separatist­s from the the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk republics — de facto Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine — with the mediation of Moscow. This would mean official recognitio­n of the proMoscow entities, and, of course, some form of commitment not to join NATO.

Nobody in Kyiv will ever agree to any of these conditions. This means that eventually Putin is likely to act — block the gas transit via Ukraine, recognize the puppet "republics" in the Donbass or even launch a new full-scale military assault. The fight against the imaginary "antiRussia" has become the meaning of his life.

 ??  ?? Putin still sees NATO and the West as his main enemy
Putin still sees NATO and the West as his main enemy
 ??  ?? Konstantin Eggert
Konstantin Eggert

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