On July 3rd, Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said in a radio interview that the residents of the Donbas are not considering reunifying with Kiev-controlled Ukraine, citing the Kiev government’s inability to decisively win a military victory over the Donbas in its illegal war:
“The Donbass residents are not planning to return to Kiev. The Russophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Ukraine is foreign to us, we have a different attitude towards moral standards, traditions and historical values. The future of the Donbass is linked to Russia. Today we are aiming to strengthen the integration processes with the Russian Federation, the prospects for a return to Ukraine are zero.
Ukraine is openly demonstrating that it is not going to take constructive steps towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict. This position is convenient for the Kiev authorities. By covering themselves with military actions, which, incidentally, were triggered by the Ukrainian leadership, they are hiding their political failures and concealing their own ineffectiveness,” he said.
Donbass Insider reported that the “interview follows a statement by former Verkhovna Rada deputy Yevgeny Murayev, who said that Kiev was afraid of recovering the Donbass because, according to him, the authorities would then have to pay the pensions owed to the region’s residents, as well as seek financial reserves to restore the territory.”
Three days later, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, tried to quash any notion that the DPR and the LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic) would be integrated into the Russian Federation:
“As for their practical steps towards becoming part of Russia, I know nothing about it, I don’t have any information,” Peskov said, when asked to comment on media reports on the matter.
The Kremlin spokesman pointed out that many residents of the self-proclaimed republics had obtained Russian citizenship. “The decision to provide them with Russian citizenship was made solely for humanitarian reasons, after these people had been abandoned by their own government and were put at risk of being killed,” he explained.
As others have pointed out, given the influence of the Neo-Nazi element in Ukraine, including within government circles, there would be a danger for the DPR and LPR to be reintegrated into Ukraine proper. But it is also against Russia’s interests to absorb these republics. One reason is that there would be no countervailing force within Ukraine to oppose ambitions for NATO membership.
As for the citizenship policy implemented by Russia, Igor Zevelev has written an informative and contextual analysis of it for the Kennan Institute:
In 1991, it wasn’t just the Soviet Union that collapsed, but a centuries-old Russian empire that disappeared from the political map overnight. However, that empire did not disappear from the mental maps of many people in Russia. Russians had a difficult time recognizing the newly independent neighboring states, Ukraine and Belarus in particular, as separate nations. This prompted a deep national identity crisis in 1991, and it lingers to this day. One serious consequence of this crisis is the ambiguous set of ideas about Ukraine in the Russian national discourse.
Today, Russians view Ukraine in many different ways. It is considered a neighboring independent state, an emerging European country, a culturally close Slavic country, a part of a historic Russia, a potential member of a hostile military alliance (NATO), and a state that continues to hold (illegally) certain pieces of land that belong to Russia. All of these conflicting images and visions coexist in the public and political discourses-and politicians, policymakers, and public intellectuals employ many of them simultaneously. Abstract conceptions and historic images make their way to concrete policymaking in Russia with remarkable ease.
Politics of national identity and citizenship
In most countries, politics, as well as bureaucratic politics, are essential processes that connect abstract thinking about national identity with foreign policy. In Russia, there are important internal intellectual and political divisions within the elite over the essence of Russian statehood and nationhood. The multi-layered and contested political and intellectual environment explains why Moscow’s actions toward Ukraine are often inconsistent and hard to predict: the perception of Ukraine is intimately related to Russian national identity, an identity that is still being formed. Policy outcomes in Russia rarely result from open political struggle. Instead, there is a bargaining game behind closed doors among a relatively small and tight-knit group of governmental actors.
The internal bureaucratic fight over whether to grant Russian citizenship to millions of Ukrainians originated in the mid-1990s and simmered until 2017, when a gradual process of easing naturalization procedures for Ukrainians started. This process accelerated in 2020. Both the long battle and recent seminal decisions over the citizenship policy reflect the coexistence of different visions of Russia and Ukraine within the Russian elite.
Read the full article here.
Meanwhile, Washington and NATO appear to be up to their old trick of being provocative. As reported by The National Interest on July 8th:
In an interview, Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Ruslan Khomchak said that following the advice of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) advisors, Ukraine’s American-supplied Javelin anti-tank missiles would be moved up to Ukraine’s front lines in their conflict against separatists in the country’s east-though the missiles would have to be used only defensively….
…Originally designed in the late 1980s, the Javelin is a relatively light-weight and man-portable anti-tank weapon. Boasting a nearly three-mile range (almost five kilometers) the Javelin is a powerful anti-armor missile. Against armored targets like tanks or armored personnel carriers, the Javelin uses a top-attack flight profile in which the vehicle’s thinner top armor is targeted. It can also use a direct-attack flight mode for buildings, helicopters, or other unarmored targets.
Ukraine received their first tranche of Javelins in 2018. Their second tranche was infamously delayed by the Trump administration in 2019, a part of the White House’s infamous quid-pro-quo scandal.