Ukraine Live Day 671: Putin Will Not “Abandon” Russians Living In Ukraine

December 20, 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting with high-ranked officials representing Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the European Union in Minsk, August 26, 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin

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Putin Vows To Protect Russians From Ukrainian Nationalists

Since the Euromaidan Revolution in February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin has had his favorite boogeymen — Ukrainian nationalists — whom he has consistently blamed for a his actions in Ukraine, even when he was simultaneously denying that action. When Russian soldiers were deploying all over the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, Russia simultaneously denied his soldiers were present while he pledged action to defend ethnic Russians from this threat. He later admitted that these “little green men” were Russian soldiers. After the annexation, and weeks of peace, pro-Russian separatists began to take over the Donbass. Again, Putin claimed innocence while raising alarm about nationalists.

Once again, Putin has made inflammatory statements about the need to protect ethnic Russians living in Ukraine on one of his state-run news outlets, RIA.

Reuters reports:

Moscow says Ukrainian nationalists pose a threat to ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the region. More than 9,000 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian troops since April 2014.

“We proceed from only one thing, which is we cannot just abandon the people who live in the southeast of the country to nationalists to eat them up,” Putin said.

Is Putin right to worry? Let’s look at the facts:

First, Ukrainian nationalism is in decline in popularity, and Ukrainian far-right parties hold less power now than they have in a long time: 

Ukraine’s far-right parties are being beaten in the political sphere, though problems persist.

Add to this that ethnic Russians are not being oppressed in areas of the country that the Ukrainian military controls, and public opinion in Ukraine is that Putin and the Kremlin, not ethnic Russians, are the real threat, and it’s easy to see how this argument of Putin’s is simply propaganda.

Then there is another problem for the Kremlin — the Russian far-right openly supports the Russian war effort in Ukraine:

A Russian radical biker gang and other far-right activists are leading efforts to contain the Ukrainian movement by forming an “anti-Maidan” group:
And they have been rewarded:
And the Russian government almost-openly supports major far-right world leaders and celebrities, both in Russia and in Europe:

So the question is not whether ethnic Russians are at risk. The question is what Putin will do next in Ukraine. The Minsk ceasefire is broken, it expires at the end of the year anyway, and tensions between Russia and Ukraine have once again been heightened significantly just in the last several weeks.

James Miller