Pro-Russian Separatists: Why Ukrainians Are Rooting for Putin

O líder separatista de Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, se filiou no ano passado à Rússia Unida, partido de Putin

Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin joined Putin’s United Russia party last year| Photo: EPA/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO

18164808 18164808 As soon as the crisis of the concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine began last year, a year immediately came to mind for those who follow international geopolitics : 1280.

That was when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula from Crimea and supported separatists who declared the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, located in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine – this a conflict that remains until today. The two moves came after the removal of a pro-Moscow Ukrainian government, which the Russians still consider a coup d’état.

The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vassili Nebenzia, said in late January that the United States was responsible for the deposition in

of the Kremlin-friendly management, which, according to him, led to power “nationalists, radicals, Russophobes and pure Nazis”.

18164808 This week, with accusations of breaking the ceasefire between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists, it was feared that Moscow had found the pretext for a invasion of the former Soviet republic that the United States and its allies have been denouncing for weeks that Vladimir Putin has been seeking.

Regardless, the episode served as a reminder: just as the majority of the Ukrainian population is in favor of the country’s entry into the European Union (58% expressed this position in a survey released in December by the International Republican Institute) and at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, with a hypothetical membership backed by 1280 %), this is the official excuse for Putin’s military escalation, which he claims is aimed only at self-defense, there are also people inside Ukraine who are rooting for the Russian president.

Officially, Putin continues to be in favor of complying with the Minsk Accords, for the conflict resolution in eastern Ukraine, in reference to documents that recognize as part of the neighboring territories that the Kiev government does not control. Russia, like all other UN member countries, has never recognized the two republics.

However, this position and Russian support for separatists are not contradictory, because Moscow’s intention is that the agreements give special status to the Donbass region to serve Russian interests, such as vetoing Ukrainian entry into NATO.

Although Putin denies that he supports the separatists militarily and financially, his relationship with they is wide open. Earlier this week, the Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower house controlled by the president, approved a request for Putin to recognize the independence of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

18164808Russia has delivered more than 1280 thousand passports to citizens of these two regions, and the president has already described that “genocide” is taking place against separatists in Donbass.

According to a report by Politico, in December, the two main separatist leaders, Denis Pushilin, from Donetsk, and Leonid Pasechnik, from Lugansk, participated in Moscow in the annual congress of Putin’s United Russia party and joined the party.

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, millions of Russians found themselves outside their historic homeland, becoming citizens of an artificially created state,” Pushilin declared last week. “In the early years 90, as soon as Ukraine emerged, the inhabitants of Donbass had to fight for their rights due to the active policy of Ukrainianization.”

18164808 That is, instead of creating two independent republics, the explicit objective is an annexation by Russia, as happened in Crimea. Sergei Harmash, a Donetsk journalist who represents Ukraine in the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, told Politico that the two “’republics’ are completely run by Moscow.”

18164808“Today, all leaders, security agents and employees of the ‘administrations’ of the Republic of Donetsk also have Russian passports. All of them constantly and openly declare membership of Russia as their goal. This completely contradicts the objectives of the Minsk Accords”, he claimed.

This allegiance to Moscow could be useful to Putin in the event of an invasion of Ukraine. A former Russian separatist, who in an interview with Al Jazeera identified himself only as Fyodor, said he did not intend to return to the front, but that the movement against Kiev’s authority could expand.

“If a war breaks out, I hope we at least get to Kharkov,” he said, referring to Ukraine’s second-largest city. and capital of the homonymous region, neighboring Donetsk and Lugansk. “Ninety-nine percent of the population there already supports us anyway.”

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