Russia is set to repeat tactics it used with Georgia in 2008 and split off southeastern Ukraine to sabotage next month’s presidential elections, the Ukrainian envoy to the United Nations warned.
“Unfortunately, we are deeply concerned that the scenario which is prepared for eastern Ukraine might be similar to the one implemented by Russia in Abkhazia,” Yuriy Sergeyev said in a speech to the UN Security Council late yesterday. “One of the main purposes of such a scenario is to disrupt the presidential elections scheduled for May 25.”
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in 2008 sparked by a Georgian attempt to retake one of two Russian-backed breakaway regions. Russia subsequently recognized the two territories, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent states.
President Vladimir Putin said this month that the east and south of Ukraine are historically parts of Russia. The Russian leader earlier denounced as a historical injustice a 1954 decision by then-Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev to transfer the Crimea peninsula from Russia to Ukraine. Russia annexed Crimea in March.
“Let me remind everyone, this is New Russia, using the terminology of Czarist Russia,” Putin said at his annual call-in show, referring to an old term for Russian territories conquered in the 18th century in present-day Ukraine.
He said regions including Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk and Odessa weren’t part of Ukraine until last century. “These are the territories that were passed to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. God knows why they did that.”
Armed pro-Russian separatists who are seizing regional administrative buildings may proclaim the creation of a New Russia within the boundaries described by Putin, Sergeyev said. “The Russian Federation would immediately recognize such a regional unit as an independent state” and could then send troops to Ukraine under the guise of peacekeepers, he said.
While Russia has said it reserves the right to send troops to Ukraine to protect Russian-speakers there, it denies any plan to invade the country.