Russia is still seeking regime change to make Ukraine ‘Rump State’

The Russian army’s initial attempt to seize Kiev by force has failed. However, the Kremlin has not revised its goal of regime change in Ukraine.

“The goal is the liquidation of Ukraine as a puppet of the Anglo – Saxon bloc,” said Pyotor Akopov, a columnist for the Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti, and his comments match those of others close to power in the Kremlin.

“Ukraine in its current form will not come out of this conflict,” Akopov said Newsweek. “It will be a different country with a completely different leadership within the Russian sphere of influence.”

Akopov came to the attention of Western observers on February 26, when he issued an op-ed entitled “Russia’s Invasion and the Arrival of a New World.” The article was posted on RIA-Novosti’s website at exactly 8:00 on February 26, two days after the start of the Russian invasion.

“Ukraine has returned to Russia,” the article said optimistically. “This does not mean that its state will be liquidated, but that it will be reorganized, re-established and returned to its natural state in a part of the Russian world.”

RIA-Novisti’s website removed Akopov’s article the day after its publication. Most speculation as to why it did so has centered on the discrepancy between the columnist’s characterization of “Russia, Belarus and Ukraine acting as a single geopolitical entity” and the real fact that Ukrainian soldiers and citizens come together to reject Russian. invasion.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) is watching, alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin (V), as they await the US-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva on June 16, 2021.
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images

But even as Russian troops relocate from the areas around Kiev in northern Ukraine to focus their attacks on the southern Black Sea coast and the eastern Donbas region, Akopov maintains that Russia’s political goals in Ukraine will be met.

“One option for the operation was a quick capitulation, but another was a longer conflict,” Akopov explains. “The rapid capitulation did not happen, and so now the troops that were around Kiev will relocate to take control of the area from Kherson to Donetsk.”

He went on to describe the transformation of Ukraine into what is known as a “rump state”, a landlocked remnant of the free and viable land it has been, cut off from the West, from vital sea trade through the Black Sea, a client. the state of the Kremlin – just like its neighbor to the north.

“Then the Ukrainian army will see the futility of fighting, and Russia will expand against Mykolaiv and Odesa,” Akopov said. “What is left of Ukraine will then come under such economic and military pressure that it will have to reorient itself away from the West and back towards Russia.”

“The resulting Ukrainian state will resemble Belarus in its geopolitical orientation and domestic administration,” he added. “This is a multi-step process.”

Akopov is not a lonely voice. Despite the military facts on the ground, his rhetoric is similar to that of other people close to the Kremlin and the rhetoric of the Russian leadership.

Since the start of Putin’s invasion on February 24, one of Russia’s officially declared targets has been the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine. The accusation that the Kiev government is a neo-fascist entity has been repeated in Moscow since Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution in 2014.

Moscow’s characteristics of its southern neighbor have not changed despite the fact that in 2019, 73% of Ukrainian voters cast their ballots for current President Volodymyr Zelensky, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian with a Jewish heritage.

Nevertheless, on the morning of February 24, just hours after Russian forces began attacking Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that “we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.”

Throughout the conflict, Russian officials and Kremlin-affiliated insiders have used similar rhetoric.

“Our president said we should carry out denazification and demilitarization,” State Duma Pyotor Tolstoy said on March 17 in an interview with radio station Komsomolskaya Pravda. “In order to achieve these two tasks, it is necessary to take complete control of the territory of Ukraine.”

In an interview published on March 28 in the newspaper Rossiskaya GazetaRussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that “both the demilitarization and the denazification of Ukraine are necessary components of any diplomatic agreement that we may reach.”

On April 5, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrote on his personal Telegram channel: “It should come as no surprise that Ukraine, after writing the names of Judas and Nazi henchmen into its history books and mentally transformed into the “Third Reich, will suffer the same fate as they did.”

On April 8, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said of some Ukrainians’ claims that Borscht is a Ukrainian court: “This is what we are talking about when we talk about xenophobia, Nazism and extremism in all its forms.”

On April 12 in another interview published in Rossiskaya GazetaKremlin insider Sergey Karaganov said: “We have not yet solved the main problem, which is the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine and the liberation of the Donbas. It will have to be resolved by military means, as negotiations at this stage will not lead to Too much.”

And also on April 12, the Russian president himself confirmed his goals in unequivocal terms.

“The military operation will continue until its complete completion,” Vladimir Putin told a news conference, “with the solution of the goals set at the beginning of this operation.”

Despite its strategic military reorientation towards the south and east of Ukraine, the Kremlin has not changed its original political goal of regime change in Kiev.

As Akapov warns: “This process can take several years.”

Correction 4/15/22, 12:20 pmET: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Akopov’s article had been removed “within minutes” of its publication. We apologize for the inconvenience.

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