‘We are one’: Russia mocks Ukraine’s ‘own path’

With Russia reining in inflation and a divisive push for a Covid vaccine passport, the most-watched news talk shows on state television have turned to a time-favorite topic. ordeal: Ukraine, the “brother nation” -turned-familiar to the Kremlin.

Rising tensions with the West an army near the border highlighted Russia’s relationship with Ukraine during a seven-year proxy war that has killed more than 14,000 people in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, has denied any Russian involvement in Kyiv’s conflict with Moscow-led separatists, but made Ukraine the center of attention in a 30-minute speech with key participants. foreign policy officials this week, told them that the footsteps of war are a reminder to the West do not cross the “red line” of Russia.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, those included a promise that NATO would refrain from expanding into Ukraine, who described it as “an extremely undesirable and unacceptable scenario for Russia”. we”.

The Ukraine issue is an emotional one for Russians, who maintain close family and cultural ties to the country despite several years of war.

Evgeny Popov, a legislator and co-organizer 60 minutes, the most popular talk show of Russian state television, is a case in point: he is unable to visit his father, who lives in a Ukrainian town that he will not name, due to the ban. entry of the Ukrainian security service.

“People don’t watch these shows for entertainment value – they watch what is happening with their loved ones and loved ones,” says Popov.

“We are one person. It’s basically the same space – it just happens when we’re across the border thanks to some bad guy,” he added.

Analysts say Putin’s desire to remove Ukraine from Western influence is underpinned by the belief that the country is an inviolable part of the “Russian world,” a sphere of influence made by Moscow. center, originating in the Soviet Union and the tsarist empire.

Putin has described the collapse of the Soviet Union, which divided millions of married families on both sides of the Ukrainian border, as “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century” and questioned the cause of death. if Ukraine separates from Russia.

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Putin likened the peninsula to Ukraine, where Vladimir the Great – the first Christian ruler of Rus, a medieval state ruled from Kyiv – was baptized in 2014. A.D. 988, is the “Temple Mount of Russia” – a concept that has no theological basis but sees Putin as the protector of Russians everywhere.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he ‘believes that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia’ © AP

Moscow has sought to adopt that by opposing laws introduced by Kyiv that aim to promote Ukrainian primacy, including restrictions on the use of Russian in public settings and the exclusion of non-Russian speakers. Russia from the list of “indigenous peoples of Ukraine. ”

Language laws have proven to be relatively undisputed in Ukraine, where Ukrainian is increasingly popular even among some native Russian speakers, yet provides a rich source of sustenance for the tradition. Russian figure.

“They are trying to destroy the Russian people. We need to save those people,” said Popov.

In July, Putin published a 5,000-word article, seemingly based on his own historical research, in which he wrote that he was “convinced that the real sovereignty of Ukraine is only possible within partnership with Russia” and declared Moscow would never allow it to become “anti-Russian”.

“According to Putin’s understanding, the Ukrainian people are basically one with the Russians, so they should support integration with Russia. But because the country is under the thumb of the West, people are being cheated – they are hostage to geopolitical games,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political consulting firm R. Politik. . “If the Americans leave, it will be a united country. . . and everything will be great. Or so Putin thinks.”

The article raised concerns in Ukraine that Putin – who had declined a request to meet his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky and had clearly lost interest in the Ukraine peace process – had bigger plans for the country.

“Putin has a sense of mission to rebuild a new kind of empire. It is etched in his mind. Not only Ukraine’s success, but any separate Ukrainian path will greatly damage Russian mythology,” said Pavlo Klimkin, a former Ukrainian foreign minister.

Klimkin, who was born in Kursk, Russia, added: “The story in Russia is that there is no such Ukrainian identity, including history, language, psychology and status. Putin’s stance on Ukraine is very absurd. Ukrainians and Russians have two different sets of values”.

Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Russia has abandoned studying Ukraine’s changing society over the years in favor of dealing directly with its oligarchic elite, many in Some of them had close business ties with Moscow until 2014.

That flashy attitude led the Kremlin to scrap pro-Western movements, such as the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Euromaidan protests a decade later, because of manipulation by foreign powers instead. because it reflects broader changes in Ukrainian society, Trenin said.

The war accelerated those social changes to the point that “the separate Ukrainian state regime is incompatible with any meaningful integration with Russia,” Trenin added.

Ukraine’s cultural ties to Russia deepen Moscow’s confrontation with the US over security, Popov said, much like recent NATO exercises in Ukraine and Western support, Popov said. to Kyiv’s army with the Cuban missile crisis.

“There’s a great joke that captures all that’s going on – Russia and America will fight each other until there are no more Ukrainians left,” Popov said. “America is far away, which is a geopolitical advantage. And missiles and anti-missile systems, tanks and armies and bases [ . . .] are in Ukraine. Why do we have to put up with it? “

Additional reporting by Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv

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