Staunton, April 26 – By offering the residents of Russian-occupied Donbass Russian passports, Vladimir Putin may have overplayed his hand, creating a situation in which people now there can move to other parts of the Russian Federation bringing with them their problems and complexes, Vladimir Pastukhov says.
Almost all analyses of the passport decision have focused on what it means for Ukraine, but what it means for Russia may be even more fraught with problems, the London-based Russian political analyst says in the course of an interview on Ekho Moskvy’s “Personally Yours” program (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalnovash/2414011-echo/).
Pastukhov says that one can debate what this move means for Kyiv and whether it is a sign of Russia’s occupation of the Donbass. Undoubtedly it is the latter, “but it perhaps can also be a step along the path to the depopulation” of that Ukrainian region because people with Russian passports can leave it and many undoubtedly will.
“What in fact is the Donbass today?” he asks rhetorically. “The Donbass is the dream of of Ataman Makhno as realized today. “’A cursed land’” in which no one wants to live and that in fact no one needs. At the top are Russian military commanders, but below them is “complete anarchy and chaos.”
People there exist “between two lines of the front.” Some are militants or criminals, but “many are deeply unhappy, suffering people because there is nothing worse than to be in a zone where no one is in charge during a time of war. There are children, there are the ill, there are the elderly.”
Now, thanks to Putin, they will get Russian passports – and they will use them to flee this hell. In many cases, they will take their problems with them, including problems that Moscow has created by its actions. Pastukhov says that he wonders whether “anyone has calculated these consequences?”
What will happen when this mass of people, numbering two to two and a half million begin to spread out across the Russian Federation with “its special mentality and problems.” Putin’s war may in this way come home to his country in a far bigger and more dramatic and less welcome way than he imagines.
Russia hardly needs the territory of the Donbass, but there of course is “a small group of ideologically concerned citizens for whom these territories are a certain sacred zone, but such people in Russia number only 10 to 15 percent.” For the rest, it is just more land – and if its people come into Russia, it will be the source of more problems than it presents now.