Putin’s Imperial War: Russia unveils plans to annex southern Ukraine

ATLANTIC COUNCIL

By Peter Dickinson. May 12

Putin’s Imperial War: Russia unveils plans to annex southern Ukraine

Kremlin-appointed officials in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine have confirmed plans to annex the region and incorporate it into the Russian Federation. This week’s announcement underlines the expansionist imperial agenda that is driving Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine war while highlighting his intention to extinguish Ukrainian independence and redraw the map of Europe by force.

In a May 11 televised address, a representative of the Russian occupation administration in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region confirmed that an appeal would be sent directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting annexation by Moscow. “The city of Kherson is Russia,” stated occupation administration deputy head Kirill Stremousov. “There will be no Kherson People’s Republic and no referendums. It will be a single decree based on an appeal from the leadership of the Kherson region to the president of the Russian Federation to make Kherson a fully-fledged region of Russia.”

Details of the Kremlin’s plans to directly annex Kherson follow weeks of rumors over alleged Russian preparations for a Crimea-style referendum in the region. In the wake of the 2014 Russian military takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Moscow held an internationally unrecognized referendum in an attempt to legitimize the land grab. Many observers anticipated similar tactics would be used to set the stage for the annexation of Kherson.

It now appears the referendum ploy will not be repeated in southern Ukraine. The Russian military administration apparently has little confidence in its ability to stage-manage a plausible vote in Kherson region. This pessimism is understandable. Despite more than two months of occupation, opposition to the Russian presence remains vocal while the Ukrainian military continues to express confidence in the eventual liberation of the region. With heavy weapons now flowing into Ukraine from the West, Moscow appears to be in a hurry to declare Kherson part of Russia and consolidate its grip.

Any attempt to officially annex Kherson Oblast would be entirely in line with the policies of imperial expansionthat have been evident ever since Russian forces first occupied the region in the opening days of the war. Kremlin officials have engaged in the systematic suppression of Ukrainian state symbols and have attempted to block Ukrainian media, mobile operators, and online access. Schools have been forced to switch from the Ukrainian to the Russian national curriculum, while the Ukrainian hryvnia currency is being phased out and replaced by the Russian ruble.

Steps have also been taken to silence dissent and remove any potential threats to Russian authority. Working with local collaborators, Russian forces have conducted round-ups of potential regime opponents including elected officials, journalists, activists and military veterans. Those targeted for abduction face an uncertain future with the fate of many still unknown. Thousands more have been subjected to forced deportation and transported to isolated regions of the Russian Federation.

Official Russian rhetoric has sought to emphasize Moscow’s imperial ambitions in the region. During an early May visit to occupied Kherson, Russian Senator Andrei Turchak, who also serves as secretary general of Putin’s own United Russia political party, declared that the current Russian presence in southern Ukraine would be permanent. “Russia is here forever,” he stated. “There should be no doubt about this. There will be no return to the past.”

Russian plans to annex southern Ukraine make a mockery of Vladimir Putin’s frequent claims to be conducting a defensive “military operation” against Western encroachments into the Kremlin’s traditional sphere of influence. The Russian dictator has sought to justify the war by pointing to alleged threats posed by decades of NATO enlargement while arguing that Moscow merely seeks security guarantees. In reality, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the most openly imperialistic endeavor since the days of Adolf Hitler. Putin is waging a war that combines the worst excesses of the totalitarian twentieth century with the brutality of nineteenth century colonial conquests.

Putin’s plans for the destruction of Ukraine should come as no surprise. The Russian ruler has never made any secret of his contempt for Ukrainian statehood and has written entire essays on the subject. Putin’s July 2021 treatise on the alleged “historical unity” of Russia and Ukraine remains the definitive reference material for anyone looking to fathom the depths of his Ukraine obsession, but it is far from the only evidence of his refusal to accept the reality of an independent Ukraine. Putin has long insisted Ukrainians are really Russians (“one people”) and routinely complains that modern Ukraine was established on historically Russian lands. More recently, he has taken to dismissing the entire country as an “anti-Russia” which can no longer be tolerated.  

Putin’s denial of Ukraine’s right to exist provides the ideological basis for today’s war of imperial aggression. Invading Russian soldiers and domestic Russian TV audiences alike are encouraged to view Ukraine as an illegitimate entity that has been artificially separated from Russia. Any Ukrainians who reject this interpretation and insist on a separate national identity of their own are regarded as traitors to the Russian motherland who deserve the harshest of punishment. For millions of ordinary Russians, the entire concept of Ukrainian independence has come to embody Russia’s post-1991 loss in status and the historical injustice of the Soviet collapse.

This radically revisionist worldview helps to explain the genocidal ferocity of the Russian invasion. Decades of pent up resentment and bitterness over the perceived post-Soviet humiliation of Russia is now flooding out in an orgy of hatred and violence targeting “treacherous” Ukraine. While Russian soldiers engage in the rape, torture and mass murder of Ukrainian civilians, Kremlin propagandists openly call for the annihilation of the Ukrainian nation. Meanwhile, independent opinion polls indicate overwhelming Russian public support for the war.

Ukrainians are under no illusions regarding Russia’s exterminatory intentions and understand that if they are not victorious, their country will cease to exist. However, many voices in the international arena have yet to fully grasp the sheer scale of Russia’s imperial ambitions and seem to believe some kind of negotiated settlement remains possible. This is dangerous wishful thinking. There can be no compromise with the Kremlin as long as Putin seeks to wipe Ukraine off the map.

Ukraine’s remarkable battlefield success during the first two months of the war has obscured the bigger picture of Russia’s imperial agenda and risks creating a false sense of security. Indeed, many now appear to take an eventual Ukrainian victory for granted, while French President Emmanuel Macron has already begun warning against the dangers of “humiliating” Russia. Such thinking will leave the problem of unreconstructed Russian imperialism unaddressed and will all but guarantee further wars of aggression.

Instead, it is vital to continue expanding international support for Ukraine until Russia is decisively defeated and forced to confront its crimes. Russia’s present military predicament may well make it more difficult to implement Putin’s plans for the annexation of southern Ukraine. However, Moscow will view any setbacks as temporary and Russia will continue to pose an international security threat until the imperial thinking that made the current war possible is consigned to the ash heap of history. 

Peter Dickinson is Editor of the Atlantic Council’s UkraineAlert Service.

6 comments

  1. “Ukrainians are under no illusions regarding Russia’s exterminatory intentions and understand that if they are not victorious, their country will cease to exist. However, many voices in the international arena have yet to fully grasp the sheer scale of Russia’s imperial ambitions and seem to believe some kind of negotiated settlement remains possible. This is dangerous wishful thinking. There can be no compromise with the Kremlin as long as Putin seeks to wipe Ukraine off the map.”

    Absolutely chilling. Incredible that the Budapest signatories did not act in 2014 to prevent what’s happening now. And despicable that Biden knew of putler’s plans last year and did nothing. Three divisions of US and UK troops deployed to Ukraine last year with air and sea support would have put a stop to it all.
    Even now, Ukraine does not have enough in its manpower or armoury to simultaneously a) defend the Donbas, b) defend key cities such as Kyiv, Odessa, Mykolaiv etc, and c) mount an offensive to retake Kherson oblast. And I didn’t even mention Mariupol.
    Genocide, mass deportations, rape, torture, theft, WW2 scale destruction and now a naked imperialistic land grab are taking place. The EU are pigs, the world is indifferent and so it falls on the Budapest signatories, plus Poland and Pribaltika to do something.
    Without the help of the signatories, much of Ukraine now would be already under the putler jackboot. The onus is on them; particularly America with the enormous economic and military power at its disposal, to take decisive action.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. To be truthful, I don’t think that mafia land is capable of accomplishing these plans. It will not only lose the recently taken territories, but also the rest of Donbas that was occupied since 2014. It is also very questionable if mafia land can hold on to the Crimea.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m afraid that they are only too capable of accomplishing these plans. Like all totalitarian regimes, loss of troops will not change their plans. A loss of 100,000 at this stage of the conflict might have. Unfortunately it will take the best part of a year for Ukraine to inflict such losses. But at what cost to themselves? 27,000 orcs squashed so far, but how many of the defenders? It’s a state secret, but it’s going to be quite a lot for a culture like Ukraine’s that values human life. But also how many civilians have the putinazis murdered? Again we don’t know, but it could well be 100,000 or even more. In the demented nazi minds of the kremkrappers, that represents success, because genocide is a key objective.
      As stated previously, the liberation of Kherson oblast is a huge task and already the enemy is dug in. If only the allies could assist with massive air strikes, that would make all the difference. But no, Ukraine has to do everything the hard way with the bare minimum of support.
      To see off putler for good, Ukraine needs a colossus of an army, with a large, powerful Air Force.
      Total defeat of this cancerous enemy is the only thing Ukraine can strive for. Even when that has been achieved, there remains the question of reparations and the return of all the kidnap victims to their rightful homes.
      These are huge tasks for Ukraine and they need a tripling of the help currently being doled out to them.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Don’t worry, Scradge, Ukraine is cleaning up the cockroach mess, bit by bit. You always forget that they cannot replace the lost military gear, and Ukraine gets a steady flow, especially with the lend-lease.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve read that the scum bag will annex the area then if anyone tries to take it back, it gives Putin the pretext to use nukes as he would consider any activity in taking the territory as being a threat to Russia. Sick fuck!!!

      Liked by 4 people

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