Staunton, June 9 – Many have suggested that Moscow will move against Odessa or Kharkiv lest any effort to create a Russian land corridor to Crimea by attacking Mariupol spark new sanctions. But the appointment of Mikhail Saakashvili as Odessa governor has made that city the most likely target for new Russian provocations, according to Kseniya Kirillova.
In a Novy Region-2 commentary today, she begins by noting that Igor Romanenko, the former deputy chief of the Ukrainian general staff, has said that “threats to Kharkiv and Odessa oblasts are growing” especially since Russian diversionary activities have never ended in either (nr2.com.ua/blogs/Ksenija_Kirillova/Rossiya-gotovit-krupnye-provokacii-v-Odesse-98527.html)
But Kirillova argues that there is much additional evidence which suggests that “in the near term” Moscow is planning to take actions to destabilize the situation and that a major reason for that is Russian hatred of Saakashvili, the Georgian leader who was recently named to head the Odessa region.
The Russian foreign ministry expressed outrage about Saakashvili’s appointment as one might expect given its attacks on the former Georgian president in the past. But, as Kirillova notes, as important as that may be as an indication of Moscow’s intentions, it is far from the only one pointing in this direction.
Immediately after Saakashvili’s appointment, the Kremlin-controlled media was filled with articles recalling the Georgian leader’s role in 2008 and suggesting that he will recreate some of the same justifications Russia invoked for its invasion of his South Caucasus republic seven years ago.
According to Kirillova, “the only conclusion” which is possible is that all this is about laying the groundwork for “a provocation from the side of Russia.”
But there is a great deal more. Especially worrisome is an article which appeared on a site sponsored by Vladimir Yakunin, the head of Russian Rail, which suggested that “the main ‘threat’” Saakashvili presents is that he will take steps so that Odessa like Georgia before it will “’completely exit from any integration projects one way or another connected with Russia.’”
Another article, on the Poitnavigator portal, suggested that Saakashvili’s presence in Odessa is intended to trigger a conflict with Transdniestria or even to create conditions for the establishment of an American military base in southern Ukraine.
But perhaps the clearest indication of what Moscow may be planning, Kirillova suggests, is provided in an NTV propaganda film entitled “The Enemy Saakashvili,” in which a cadres KGB officer who worked in Georgia repeatedly says that “in Ukraine will take place exactly the same thing that took place in Georgia” before Moscow intervened there.
It is difficult to avoid concluding given “the number and variety of sources,” the Novy Region-2 commentator says, that Moscow is making plans and that Odessa will soon face a new round of Russian provocations.