Thursday, January 26, 2023

Putin’s War against Ukraine Began Not in 2022 or 2014 but in 2004, Skorkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 22 – Some are inclined to date the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 when he announced the start of  his “special military operation.” Others, more thoughtful, argue it began in 2014 when he seized Ukraine’s Crimea and backed separatists in the Donbass.

            In fact, Ukrainian researcher Konstantin Skorkin says, Putin’s campaign against Ukraine when, in the wake of the Orange Revolution in Kyiv, the Kremlin leader decided to use soft power and hybrid means to weaken Ukraine and seek to prevent its departure from Moscow’s orbit (

            Indeed, he continues, the history of Russian involvement in Donbass separatism from that date forward is “a vivid example of what Putin’s ‘soft power’ in the post-Soviet space can turn into – a policy of supporting destructive movements that draw their strengthen by feeding on domestic political contradictions in those countries.”

            To set the stage for what Putin began in 2004, Skorkin draws on the seminal work of Hiroaki Kuromiya, Freedom and Terror in the Donbass, A Ukrainian-Russian Borderland, 1870s -1990s (Cambridge, 1998) to describe what the Indiana University scholar identified the Donbass as “the difficult child of Moscow and Kyiv.”

            But Skorkin stresses that until the Orange Revolution, Moscow gave only sporadic attention to the economically and politically troubled region. That changed when the Orange Revolution occurred and when the Kremlin recognized it could play on the divisions within Ukraine by supporting the hitherto marginal separatists in the Donbass.

            The Russians could do so, the Ukrainian journalist says, primarily because the Ukrainian Party of the Regions which opposed the Orange Revolution was all too ready to cooperate in promoting Donbass separatism not only to weaken its opponents but also to present itself in the eyes of the world as more moderate.

            What happened in the Donbass in 2014 was only the playing out of that combination of interests and actions, Skorkin says.

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