Staunton, April 13 – Many diplomats and commentators are suggesting that Putin’s war in Ukraine can be ended if the two sides agree to accept the current status quo, that is, to accept as fixed the division of Ukraine between Kyiv and Moscow controlled areas, but such an approach would mark the division and even destruction of Ukraine as such, Ivan Klyshch says.
That is because since the start of the massive invasion, the Russian army and security forces that have moved in behind them have sought to destroy and replace existing Ukrainian institutions and laws with Russian ones, imposing Russian rule and attracting some collaborators, the University of Tartu graduate student says (ridl.io/zhizn-v-okkupatsii/).
Because that is the case, he says on the basis of an examination of reports from the occupied regions, “only the complete liberation of the occupied territories will stop the creation on these territories of puppet regimes” which will resemble those that Moscow imposed in the Donbass beginning in 2014 and that are intended to be permanent.
Russian forces have done what they can to prevent information about all this from reaching the outside world, but “even in these conditions, certain Ukrainian media continue to work there and report about the actions of both the occupation forces and Ukrainian” resistance of various kind. Klyshch says.
In most places, the Russian military has already set up camps and imposed martial law. Protests have been banned, and these new rules are being enforced not by the Russian army in many cases but by special police and other militarized formations sent in from Russia, including from Chechnya. In some cases, they have kidnaped or killed protesters.
These occupation forces have sought to identify and arrest or otherwise deal with Ukrainian military veterans, activists and in general all those who remain loyal to Kyiv. Teachers and others who deal with the population have disappeared, and in some cases, they have been subject to torture.
Russian officials have announced the formation of collaborationist committees and plans for referenda on the creation of “peoples republics” thus showing that Moscow intends to create on the occupied territories “dual military-civil administration” and thus be in a position to remain there for a long time, Klyshch says.
Many officials in these areas remain loyal to Ukraine and are resisting all this. In response, the Russian occupiers have replaced some but also sought to create alternative structures of their own loyalists, structures that they clearly hope will be in a position to take over from the Ukrainian loyalists.
“The replacement of existing officials with collaborationists is a strategy which we have already seen in the course of the occupation of the Donbass,” the Tartu scholar says. But Russian occupation plans are more radical than that: the occupiers are reintroducing Russian TV and demanding local people watch it, and they are burning Ukrainian books they don’t approve of.
The Russian plans have not been crowned with success, Klyshch says. Not only is there massive resistance but the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories is deteriorating. Aid, even from Russia, isn’t reaching the population; and anger about problems with food and medicine is intensifying.
All this needs to be kept in mind by those who would like to bring peace to Ukraine. Leaving control where it is in order to end the fighting would give Russia an enormous victory. But so far, talks have focused on making Ukraine neutral rather than offering any occasion for discussion about the occupied lands.
If such discussions don’t take place and if Russia is able to install puppet regimes where its forces currently are, Putin will get a victory he doesn’t deserve; and Ukraine will suffer losses which it doesn’t either and which will set the stage for future Russian aggression just as the occupied Donbass and occupied Crimea have done.