Saturday, April 6, 2024

Ukrainian Drone Attack on Tatarstan Prompts Minnikhanov to Suggest His Republic Can Rely Only on Itself

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 3 – Ukraine’s successful drone attack on facilities in Tatarstan, 1200 km from the frontlines of Putin’s war, has shocked many in Russia because it shows that Kyiv has the capacity to bring the war far deeper into Russia than ever before. But that shock, one echoing across the country and in the halls of Moscow as well, pales in comparison to another.

            And that is this: Rustam Minnikhanov, head of the republic, responded to the attacks by saying that “we must solve these problems with our own forces, each enterprise, each municipality, and each city” because “no one will defend us besides ourselves” ( and

Indeed, the head of one Tatarstan company that was attacked said his corporation had “buying equipment” to defend itself over the last year (, an apparent reference to permission Moscow gave to corporations to form their own PMCs (

            To be sure, the Tatarstan leader did not say in terms that his subjects can no longer count on Moscow to defend them from such attacks and may conclude that they will increasingly have to go their own way to do so; but that is certainly how many in Tatarstan and in other places within the borders of the Russian Federation are likely to understand his words.

            And to the extent they now do so, that by itself will give a powerful new impetus to those who insist that they and their regions and republics have no choice but to go their own wayand pursue independence from an imperial center that is no longer able or perhaps even willing to defend them.

            The drone attack on Tatarstan thus could bea turning point in Russia’s development. Ruslan Aysin, a Tatar commentator now living in Turkey, suggests as much. He argues that what has just happened recalls the May 1987 flight of Matias Rust who piloted a small plane through Soviet air defenses and landed in Red Square (

            Rust’s flight not only embarrassed the Kremlin by highlighting the weaknesses of much-ballyhooed Soviet air defenses but contributed to centrifugal forces in Soviet society, as more and more people in the non-Russian union republics came to recognize that Moscow was a giant with feet of clay that could no longer be counted on to defend them.

            As Aysin pointedly concludes, what has just happened in Tatarstan suggests that in the intervening period, “little has changed.”

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