In a move sure to further fuel tensions with the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday officially recognized Ukraine's breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent states and signed the relevant agreements with the separatist leaders in the Kremlin.
Putin also said he will request that Russia's parliament "immediately recognize" the agreements as valid.
He also called on Ukraine "to stop the hostilities in the Donbas region" of eastern Ukraine – along Russia's border, where Donetsk and Luhansk are located – saying that otherwise "the responsibility for what happens" will lie with the country's leaders.
"Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia"
Explaining his decision, Putin said the situation in Donbas has reached "a critical, acute stage," and the time has come to make some steps.
Putin said Ukraine is not "just a neighboring country" for Russia but "an inalienable part" of the Russian history, culture, and spiritual space, "people bound by blood, by family ties."
"Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians. This was the case before the 17th century when a portion of this territory rejoined the Russian state and after.
"Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia. This process started practically right after the 1917 revolution, and (Soviet leader Vladimir) Lenin and his associates did it in a way that was extremely harsh on Russia – by separating, severing what historically Russian land is. Nobody asked the millions of people living there what they thought," he said.
Then, another Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, transferred to Ukraine some lands that previously belonged to Poland, Romania, and Hungary, giving to Poland as compensation "part of what was traditionally German land as compensation," Putin continued.
Putin further doubted Lenin's right "to make such generous gifts, beyond the wildest dreams of the most zealous nationalists" and give the republics the right to secede from the unified state without any conditions.
Finally, in 1954, one more Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, took Crimea away from Russia for some reason and also gave it to Ukraine.
"In effect, this is how the territory of modern Ukraine was formed," Putin said.
Putin added that Lenin and Stalin argued about the form of the young Soviet state, with Stalin defending the idea of building the country on the principles of autonomisation -- giving the future administrative and territorial entities broad powers upon joining a unified state, and Lenin insisting on "making concessions to the nationalists" and building a confederative state.
"This immediately raises many questions. The first is really the main one: why was it necessary to appease the nationalists, to satisfy the ceaselessly growing nationalist ambitions on the outskirts of the former empire? What was the point of transferring to the newly, often arbitrarily formed administrative units – the union republics – vast territories that had nothing to do with them? Let me repeat that these territories were transferred along with the population of what was historically Russia," he said.
Putin further doubted Lenin's right "to make such generous gifts, beyond the wildest dreams of the most zealous nationalists" and give the republics the right to secede from the unified state without any conditions.
Putin further doubted Lenin's right "to make such generous gifts, beyond the wildest dreams of the most zealous nationalists" and give the republics the right to secede from the unified state without any conditions.
The president explained Lenin's motives by a desire to stay in power at any coast, and for this, they agreed for everything, including "humiliating conditions of the Brest Peace" of World War I, although Kaiser's Germany and its allies were about to lose, and also "satisfying any demands, any wishes from the nationalists inside the country."
"From the point of view of the historical destinies of Russia and its peoples, Lenin's principles of state-building turned out to be not just a mistake, it was, as they say, much worse than a mistake. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, this became absolutely obvious," he noted.
Putin said he did not blame anyone. The past cannot be changed, but "it is a historical fact" that Soviet Ukraine appeared as a result of the Bolshevik's policy.
"As a result of the Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine arose, which even today can be rightfully called "Ukraine named after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin". He is its author and architect. This is fully confirmed by archival documents, including Lenin's strict directives on Donbas, which was literally squeezed into Ukraine," he said.
And now the "grateful descendants" have demolished monuments to Lenin in Ukraine, calling it "decommunization," Putin remarked.
"You want decommunization? Well, that's fine with us. But there is no need, as they say, to stop halfway. We are ready to show you what real decommunization means for Ukraine," he said in a threatening voice.
Putin went on saying that life itself immediately showed that it was impossible to preserve such a huge and complex state as the Soviet Union or to manage it on the proposed confederate principles, which were "completely disconnected from reality and from historical tradition."
Understanding that, Stalin turned into a mere declaration of the confederative principles and created "a strictly centralized, absolutely unitary state."
However, Stalin did not make the necessary amendments of the principal documents, including the Lenin constitution, "did not think about the future," Putin regretted.
"The leaders of the Communist Party seemed to be confident that they had managed to form a solid system of governance, that they had finally solved the national question through their policies. But the bacillus of nationalist ambitions has not gone away, and the mine originally laid, undermining state immunity against the contagion of nationalism, was just waiting in the wings. Such a mine, I repeat, was the right to withdraw from the USSR," he said.
In the mid-1980s, the national issue, reflecting "the growing appetites of the local elites," had been becoming increasingly acute, but the Communist leadership did not take serious measures, responded to it with demagogy.
Meanwhile, fighting for the leadership in the Communist party, the Soviet politicians used the nationalists, promising everything instead of getting their support, he continued.
As a result, in Sept. 1989, the Communist Party adopted a document that paved the way to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which gave the rights of the sovereign states to the republics in the conditions of a severe social and economic crisis.
"Two years before the collapse of the USSR, his fate was virtually sealed. Now radicals and nationalists, including and above all in Ukraine, attribute to themselves the merit of gaining independence. As we can see, this is not the case at all. The historical and strategic mistakes of the Bolshevik leaders and the leadership of the Communist Party made at various times in state-building, the economic and national policy led to the collapse of our united country. The collapse of historical Russia under the name of the USSR is on their conscience," he charged.
Russian-Ukrainian relations after collapse of the Soviet Union
Despite all "injustices, deception, and outright robbery," Russia recognized the new geopolitical realities that arose after the collapse of the USSR, recognized the newly independent states, and helped them.
Russia repaid entirely the Soviet foreign debt of about $100 billion, although initially it was suggested that all former Soviet republics would contribute to the payback.
Putin said that according to the expert assessments, Ukraine got about $250 billion dollars of benefits from Russia from 1991 to 2013, in addition, Kyiv made claims on the diamond fund, gold reserves, and other assets of the former USSR abroad.
"The Ukrainian authorities preferred to act in such a way as to have all the rights and advantages in relations with Russia, but not to incur any obligations at the same time.
"Instead of partnership, parasitic attitude began to prevail, which on the part of the Kyiv official authorities sometimes acquired an absolutely unceremonious character. It is enough to recall the permanent blackmail in the field of energy transit and the banal theft of gas," Putin said.
Ukraine also used the dialogue with Russia for bargaining with the West, blackmailed it with rapprochement with Moscow, knocking out preferences, threatening with the growth of the Russian influence on Ukraine, he added.
Simultaneously, the Ukrainian authorities, from the first steps was using anti-Russian rhetoric, which turned into "a form of aggressive Russophobia and neo-Nazism," as a result, many Ukrainians fought against Russia during the Chechen war.
In addition, the external forces "were feeding their agents" and promoted them to power, he said.
"It should be noted that Ukraine actually never had stable traditions of real statehood. And therefore, in 1991, it opted for mindlessly emulating foreign models, which have no relation to history or Ukrainian realities. Political government institutions were readjusted many times to the rapidly growing clans and their self-serving interests, which had nothing to do with the interests of the Ukrainian people," Putin said.
"The whole point of the so-called pro-Western civilizational choice of the Ukrainian oligarchic government was and is not to create better conditions for the well-being of the people, but to obsequiously render services to Russia's geopolitical rivals, save billions of dollars stolen from Ukrainians and hidden by oligarchs in Western bank accounts," he said.
2014 unrest in Ukraine
Meanwhile, the radicals had been more and more impudent, their claims had been growing, and in 2014 they used the protests on Maidan and, having the support from the foreign states, spearheaded the unrest, he said.
"According to available data, the financial support of the so-called protest camp on Independence Square in Kiyv from the US Embassy amounted to one million dollars a day. Additional very large sums were blindly transferred directly to the bank accounts of the opposition leaders. And it was about tens of millions of dollars," he claimed
The radicals that ceased the power unleashed terror against dissenters, Ukrainian cities were "overwhelmed by a wave of pogroms and violence, a series of high-profile and unpunished murders," he criticized.
"It is impossible to recall without a shudder the terrible tragedy in Odessa, where participants of a peaceful protest were brutally murdered, burned alive in The House of Trade Unions. The criminals who committed this atrocity have not been punished. No one is looking for them. But we know them by name and will do everything to punish them, find them and bring them to justice," he warned.
Putin went on to say that the 2014 coup did not bring Ukraine closer to democracy and progress, the nationalists pushed Ukraine into the civil war and led to a harsh economic crisis.
About 15% of Ukraine's population left the country in search of work, after many major industrial companies were closed, the cost of the communal services jumped dramatically so that some families were not able to pay them.
"The collapse of the Ukrainian economy is accompanied by the outright robbery of the country's citizens, and Ukraine itself was simply driven under external control. It is carried out not only at the command of Western capitals, but also, as they say, directly on the spot - through a whole network of foreign advisers, NGOs, and other institutions deployed on Ukraine," he said.
Putin insisted that an independent court system does not exist in Ukraine, supreme courts are formed by international organizations.
The foundation of Ukraine's policy is a confrontation with Russia, the Ukrainian parliament multiplies laws, prohibiting everything Russian, allowing the country's law enforcement to suppress freedom of speech, dissent, persecute the opposition, and even interfering in the church affairs, directed against the clergy and millions of parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine
In March 2021, Ukraine adopted a new military strategy, which almost completely devoted to the confrontation with Russia, aiming to involve the foreign states in the conflict with Russia, Putin claimed.
"The strategy suggests the organization of a terrorist underground in the Russian Crimea and on the territory of Donbas. The outlines of the alleged war are also spelt out in it, and it should end, as it seems to today's Kyiv strategists, I will quote further – "with the assistance of the international community on favorable terms for Ukraine." And also, as they say, today in Kiyv, I am also quoting here, listen more carefully, please – "with the military support of the world community in the geopolitical confrontation with the Russian Federation." This is nothing more than preparation for military operations against our country – against Russia," Putin maintained.
Ukraine also plans to create nuclear weapons, possessing the Soviet knowledge and carriers with the support of the West, it is easy for Ukraine to achieve this goal, he said.
"Once Ukraine gets the weapons of mass destruction, the situation in the world, in Europe, especially for us, for Russia, will change dramatically. We cannot but react to this real danger, especially, I repeat, that Western patrons can facilitate getting such weapons by Ukraine to create another threat to our country," he said.
Since 2014, the US spent billions of dollars for arming and training the Ukrainian military, the foreign advisors supervise Ukraine's armed forces and intelligence, NATO contingents are almost constantly stationed in Ukraine under the pretense of military drills, which has clear anti-Russian character.
Ukraine's military command centers are integrated into NATO's system, the legislation allows for the presence of foreign military troops in the country, at least 10 more military joint exercises are planned for 2022, foreign military bases are being opened under the "cover" of "military missions."
"It is obvious that such events serve as a cover for the rapid buildup of the NATO military group on the territory of Ukraine. Moreover, the network of airfields modernized with the help of the Americans - Boryspil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chuguev, Odesa, and so on - is able to ensure the transfer of military units in the shortest possible time.
"The airspace of Ukraine is open for flights of strategic and reconnaissance aircraft of the United States, unmanned aerial vehicles that are used to monitor the territory of Russia.
"The Center of Naval Operations built by the Americans in Ochakov allows for the actions of NATO ships, including their use of precision weapons against the Russian Black Sea Fleet and our infrastructure on the entire Black Sea coast," Putin said, adding that the US intended to create similar facilities in Crimea in 2014, but the plans were thwarted by the decision of the peninsula's resident to go under Russia's jurisdiction.
Ukraine's admission to NATO
Putin said the 2008 Bucharest memorandum enshrines Ukraine's right to join NATO, which creates direct security threats for Russia.
Despite reassurances that Ukraine will not become an alliance's member in the near future, no one wants to give Russia written guarantees, so it is an international document against words, Putin stressed.
"Moreover, we know the position and words of the leadership of the United States that active hostilities in the east of Ukraine do not exclude the possibility of this country joining NATO if it can meet the criteria of the North Atlantic Alliance and defeat corruption," he noted.
Putin said the same way Russia was reassured verbally about NATO's non-expansion in the 1990s, specifically at the moment of Germany's reunification in 1990.
"Today, one glance at the map is enough to see how Western countries have "kept" their promise to prevent NATO from advancing to the east. Simply deceived. We have received five waves of NATO expansion one after another.
"As a result, the Alliance and its military infrastructure went directly to the borders of Russia. This became one of the key causes of the Euro-security crisis, had the most negative impact on the entire system of international relations, and led to the loss of mutual trust," he said.
Russia, on its part, pulled out all its troops from Europe and consistently offered different variants of cooperation to NATO.
Putin said he asked the then-US president in 2000 about his opinion about prospects of Russia's admission to NATO, and the reaction was "moderate."
"How Americans really reacted to this opportunity is actually evident in their practical steps towards our country. This is open support for terrorists in the North Caucasus, disregard for our demands and concerns in the field of security in the expansion of NATO, withdrawal from the ABM (Anti-ballistic Missiles) Treaty, and so on.
"And I want to ask: why, why all this, for what? Well, okay, you don't want to see us as a friend and ally, but why make an enemy out of us? There is only one answer: it's not about our political regime, it's not about anything else, they just don't need such a big independent country as Russia. This is the answer to all questions. This is the source of the traditional American policy in the Russian direction. Hence the attitude to all our proposals in the field of security," he stated.
Russia's security concerns
Putin said the US military capabilities in Europe have been increasing, its strike systems in Poland and Romania can be used for offensive purposes.
Deployment of military objects in Ukraine will raise military threats for Russia dramatically, especially the danger of an unexpected strike at the country, taking into account that many Ukrainian airfields are located close to the Russian borders, allowing to hit all European parts of Russia as well as targets beyond the Ural mountains.
"In American strategic planning documents - in documents! - the possibility of a so-called preemptive strike on enemy missile systems has been fixed. And we also know who is the main opponent for the United States and NATO. This is Russia.
"In NATO documents, our country is officially explicitly declared the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security. And Ukraine will serve as a forward springboard for such a strike. I want this to be understood in Russia and in Ukraine," he said.
In 2008 Russia suggested signing a treaty on European security, but the proposal was denied in 2021. It came up with another initiative, but its main points about NATO's non-expansion, non-deployment of strike weapons in countries neighboring Russia and return of NATO's military infrastructure to the condition of 1997 were ignored, he said.
"Moreover, they are trying to blackmail us again. They are threatening us with sanctions again, which, by the way, they will still introduce as Russia's sovereignty strengthens and the power of our Armed Forces grows. And the pretext for another sanctions attack will always be found or simply fabricated, and regardless of the situation in Ukraine. There is one goal – to restrain the development of Russia. And they will do it, as they did it before, even without any formal pretext at all, just because we exist and will never compromise our sovereignty, national interests, and our values.
"I want to say clearly, directly, in the current situation, when our proposals for an equal dialogue on fundamental issues have actually remained unanswered by the United States and NATO, when the level of threats to our country is significantly increasing, Russia has every right to take retaliatory measures to ensure its own security. That's exactly what we will do," he said.
Situation in Donbas
Putin said Ukraine and the West have been stalling for years the implementation of the Minsk agreement, containing a clear set of steps necessary to restore the peace.
"Not every single day is going without shelling settlements of Donbas. The formed large military group constantly uses drones, heavy equipment, missiles, artillery and multiple launch rocket systems. The killing of civilians, the blockade, the bullying of people, including children, women, the elderly, does not stop. As we say, there is no end in sight.
"And the so-called civilized world, the only representatives of which our Western colleagues have self-proclaimed themselves, prefers not to notice this, as if there is no such horror, genocide, to which almost 4 million people are subjected, and only because these people did not agree with the coup supported by the West in Ukraine in 2014, they opposed declaring a state movement a cave and aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism," he said.
The presidents, lawmakers take turns, but the core "of the aggressive nationalists' regime" does not change, he said.
"In this regard, I consider it necessary to take a long-overdue decision - to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic.
"I ask the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to support this decision and then to ratify Treaties on Friendship and Mutual Assistance with both republics. These two documents will be prepared and signed in the very near future.
"And from those who have seized and are holding power in Kiyv, we demand an immediate cessation of hostilities. Otherwise, the entire responsibility for the possible continuation of the bloodshed will be entirely on the conscience of the regime ruling on the territory of Ukraine," he said.
Here is the text of Russian President Putin's speech:
"My address concerns the events in Ukraine and why this is so important for us, for Russia. Of course, my message is also addressed to our compatriots in Ukraine.
The matter is very serious and needs to be discussed in depth.
The situation in Donbass has reached a critical, acute stage. I am speaking to you directly today not only to explain what is happening but also to inform you of the decisions being made as well as potential further steps.
I would like to emphasise again that Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space. These are our comrades, those dearest to us – not only colleagues, friends and people who once served together, but also relatives, people bound by blood, by family ties.
Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians. This was the case before the 17th century, when a portion of this territory rejoined the Russian state, and after.
It seems to us that, generally speaking, we all know these facts, that this is common knowledge. Still, it is necessary to say at least a few words about the history of this issue in order to understand what is happening today, to explain the motives behind Russia’s actions and what we aim to achieve.
So, I will start with the fact that modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia. This process started practically right after the 1917 revolution, and Lenin and his associates did it in a way that was extremely harsh on Russia – by separating, severing what is historically Russian land. Nobody asked the millions of people living there what they thought.
Then, both before and after the Great Patriotic War, Stalin incorporated in the USSR and transferred to Ukraine some lands that previously belonged to Poland, Romania and Hungary. In the process, he gave Poland part of what was traditionally German land as compensation, and in 1954, Khrushchev took Crimea away from Russia for some reason and also gave it to Ukraine. In effect, this is how the territory of modern Ukraine was formed.
But now I would like to focus attention on the initial period of the USSR’s formation. I believe this is extremely important for us. I will have to approach it from a distance, so to speak.
I will remind you that after the 1917 October Revolution and the subsequent Civil War, the Bolsheviks set about creating a new statehood. They had rather serious disagreements among themselves on this point. In 1922, Stalin occupied the positions of both the General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the People’s Commissar for Ethnic Affairs. He suggested building the country on the principles of autonomisation that is, giving the republics – the future administrative and territorial entities – broad powers upon joining a unified state.
Lenin criticised this plan and suggested making concessions to the nationalists, whom he called “independents” at that time. Lenin’s ideas of what amounted in essence to a confederative state arrangement and a slogan about the right of nations to self-determination, up to secession, were laid in the foundation of Soviet statehood. Initially they were confirmed in the Declaration on the Formation of the USSR in 1922, and later on, after Lenin’s death, were enshrined in the 1924 Soviet Constitution.
This immediately raises many questions. The first is really the main one: why was it necessary to appease the nationalists, to satisfy the ceaselessly growing nationalist ambitions on the outskirts of the former empire? What was the point of transferring to the newly, often arbitrarily formed administrative units – the union republics – vast territories that had nothing to do with them? Let me repeat that these territories were transferred along with the population of what was historically Russia.
Moreover, these administrative units were de facto given the status and form of national state entities. That raises another question: why was it necessary to make such generous gifts, beyond the wildest dreams of the most zealous nationalists and, on top of all that, give the republics the right to secede from the unified state without any conditions?
At first glance, this looks absolutely incomprehensible, even crazy. But only at first glance. There is an explanation. After the revolution, the Bolsheviks’ main goal was to stay in power at all costs, absolutely at all costs. They did everything for this purpose: accepted the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, although the military and economic situation in Kaiser Germany and its allies was dramatic and the outcome of the First World War was a foregone conclusion, and satisfied any demands and wishes of the nationalists within the country.
When it comes to the historical destiny of Russia and its peoples, Lenin’s principles of state development were not just a mistake; they were worse than a mistake, as the saying goes. This became patently clear after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Of course, we cannot change past events, but we must at least admit them openly and honestly, without any reservations or politicking. Personally, I can add that no political factors, however impressive or profitable they may seem at any given moment, can or may be used as the fundamental principles of statehood.
I am not trying to put the blame on anyone. The situation in the country at that time, both before and after the Civil War, was extremely complicated; it was critical. The only thing I would like to say today is that this is exactly how it was. It is a historical fact. Actually, as I have already said, Soviet Ukraine is the result of the Bolsheviks’ policy and can be rightfully called “Vladimir Lenin’s Ukraine.” He was its creator and architect. This is fully and comprehensively corroborated by archival documents, including Lenin’s harsh instructions regarding Donbass, which was actually shoved into Ukraine. And today the “grateful progeny” has overturned monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. They call it decommunization.
You want decommunization? Very well, this suits us just fine. But why stop halfway? We are ready to show what real decommunizations would mean for Ukraine.
Going back to history, I would like to repeat that the Soviet Union was established in the place of the former Russian Empire in 1922. But practice showed immediately that it was impossible to preserve or govern such a vast and complex territory on the amorphous principles that amounted to confederation. They were far removed from reality and the historical tradition.
It is logical that the Red Terror and a rapid slide into Stalin’s dictatorship, the domination of the communist ideology and the Communist Party’s monopoly on power, nationalisation and the planned economy – all this transformed the formally declared but ineffective principles of government into a mere declaration. In reality, the union republics did not have any sovereign rights, none at all. The practical result was the creation of a tightly centralised and absolutely unitary state.
In fact, what Stalin fully implemented was not Lenin’s but his own principles of government. But he did not make the relevant amendments to the cornerstone documents, to the Constitution, and he did not formally revise Lenin’s principles underlying the Soviet Union. From the look of it, there seemed to be no need for that, because everything seemed to be working well in conditions of the totalitarian regime, and outwardly it looked wonderful, attractive and even super-democratic.
And yet, it is a great pity that the fundamental and formally legal foundations of our state were not promptly cleansed of the odious and utopian fantasies inspired by the revolution, which are absolutely destructive for any normal state. As it often happened in our country before, nobody gave any thought to the future.
It seems that the Communist Party leaders were convinced that they had created a solid system of government and that their policies had settled the ethnic issue for good. But falsification, misconception, and tampering with public opinion have a high cost. The virus of nationalist ambitions is still with us, and the mine laid at the initial stage to destroy state immunity to the disease of nationalism was ticking. As I have already said, the mine was the right of secession from the Soviet Union.
In the mid-1980s, the increasing socioeconomic problems and the apparent crisis of the planned economy aggravated the ethnic issue, which essentially was not based on any expectations or unfulfilled dreams of the Soviet peoples but primarily the growing appetites of the local elites.
However, instead of analysing the situation, taking appropriate measures, first of all in the economy, and gradually transforming the political system and government in a well-considered and balanced manner, the Communist Party leadership only engaged in open doubletalk about the revival of the Leninist principle of national self-determination.
Moreover, in the course of power struggle within the Communist Party itself, each of the opposing sides, in a bid to expand its support base, started to thoughtlessly incite and encourage nationalist sentiments, manipulating them and promising their potential supporters whatever they wished. Against the backdrop of the superficial and populist rhetoric about democracy and a bright future based either on a market or a planned economy, but amid a true impoverishment of people and widespread shortages, no one among the powers that be was thinking about the inevitable tragic consequences for the country.
Next, they entirely embarked on the track beaten at the inception of the USSR and pandering to the ambitions of the nationalist elites nurtured within their own party ranks. But in so doing, they forgot that the CPSU no longer had – thank God – the tools for retaining power and the country itself, tools such as state terror and a Stalinist-type dictatorship, and that the notorious guiding role of the party was disappearing without a trace, like a morning mist, right before their eyes.
And then, the September 1989 plenary session of the CPSU Central Committee approved a truly fatal document, the so-called ethnic policy of the party in modern conditions, the CPSU platform. It included the following provisions, I quote: “The republics of the USSR shall possess all the rights appropriate to their status as sovereign socialist states.”
The next point: “The supreme representative bodies of power of the USSR republics can challenge and suspend the operation of the USSR Government’s resolutions and directives in their territory.”
And finally: “Each republic of the USSR shall have citizenship of its own, which shall apply to all of its residents.”
Wasn’t it clear what these formulas and decisions would lead to?
Now is not the time or place to go into matters pertaining to state or constitutional law, or define the concept of citizenship. But one may wonder: why was it necessary to rock the country even more in that already complicated situation? The facts remain.
Even two years before the collapse of the USSR, its fate was actually predetermined. It is now that radicals and nationalists, including and primarily those in Ukraine, are taking credit for having gained independence. As we can see, this is absolutely wrong. The disintegration of our united country was brought about by the historic, strategic mistakes on the part of the Bolshevik leaders and the CPSU leadership, mistakes committed at different times in state-building and in economic and ethnic policies. The collapse of the historical Russia known as the USSR is on their conscience.
Despite all these injustices, lies and outright pillage of Russia, it was our people who accepted the new geopolitical reality that took shape after the dissolution of the USSR, and recognised the new independent states. Not only did Russia recognise these countries, but helped its CIS partners, even though it faced a very dire situation itself. This included our Ukrainian colleagues, who turned to us for financial support many times from the very moment they declared independence. Our country provided this assistance while respecting Ukraine’s dignity and sovereignty.
According to expert assessments, confirmed by a simple calculation of our energy prices, the subsidised loans Russia provided to Ukraine along with economic and trade preferences, the overall benefit for the Ukrainian budget in the period from 1991 to 2013 amounted to $250 billion.
However, there was more to it than that. By the end of 1991, the USSR owed some $100 billion to other countries and international funds. Initially, there was this idea that all former Soviet republics will pay back these loans together, in the spirit of solidarity and proportionally to their economic potential. However, Russia undertook to pay back all Soviet debts and delivered on this promise by completing this process in 2017.
In exchange for that, the newly independent states had to hand over to Russia part of the Soviet foreign assets. An agreement to this effect was reached with Ukraine in December 1994. However, Kiev failed to ratify these agreements and later simply refused to honour them by making demands for a share of the Diamond Treasury, gold reserves, as well as former USSR property and other assets abroad.
Nevertheless, despite all these challenges, Russia always worked with Ukraine in an open and honest manner and, as I have already said, with respect for its interests. We developed our ties in multiple fields. Thus, in 2011, bilateral trade exceeded $50 billion. Let me note that in 2019, that is before the pandemic, Ukraine’s trade with all EU countries combined was below this indicator.
At the same time, it was striking how the Ukrainian authorities always preferred dealing with Russia in a way that ensured that they enjoy all the rights and privileges while remaining free from any obligations.
The officials in Kiev replaced partnership with a parasitic attitude acting at times in an extremely brash manner. Suffice it to recall the continuous blackmail on energy transits and the fact that they literally stole gas.
I can add that Kiev tried to use dialogue with Russia as a bargaining chip in its relations with the West, using the threat of closer ties with Russia for blackmailing the West to secure preferences by claiming that otherwise Russia would have a bigger influence in Ukraine.
At the same time, the Ukrainian authorities – I would like to emphasise this – began by building their statehood on the negation of everything that united us, trying to distort the mentality and historical memory of millions of people, of entire generations living in Ukraine. It is not surprising that Ukrainian society was faced with the rise of far-right nationalism, which rapidly developed into aggressive Russophobia and neo-Nazism. This resulted in the participation of Ukrainian nationalists and neo-Nazis in the terrorist groups in the North Caucasus and the increasingly loud territorial claims to Russia.
A role in this was played by external forces, which used a ramified network of NGOs and special services to nurture their clients in Ukraine and to bring their representatives to the seats of authority.
It should be noted that Ukraine actually never had stable traditions of real statehood. And, therefore, in 1991 it opted for mindlessly emulating foreign models, which have no relation to history or Ukrainian realities. Political government institutions were readjusted many times to the rapidly growing clans and their self-serving interests, which had nothing to do with the interests of the Ukrainian people.
Essentially, the so-called pro-Western civilisational choice made by the oligarchic Ukrainian authorities was not and is not aimed at creating better conditions in the interests of people’s well-being but at keeping the billions of dollars that the oligarchs have stolen from the Ukrainians and are holding in their accounts in Western banks, while reverently accommodating the geopolitical rivals of Russia.
Some industrial and financial groups and the parties and politicians on their payroll relied on the nationalists and radicals from the very beginning. Others claimed to be in favour of good relations with Russia and cultural and language diversity, coming to power with the help of their citizens who sincerely supported their declared aspirations, including the millions of people in the south-eastern regions. But after getting the positions they coveted, these people immediately betrayed their voters, going back on their election promises and instead steering a policy prompted by the radicals and sometimes even persecuting their former allies – the public organisations that supported bilingualism and cooperation with Russia. These people took advantage of the fact that their voters were mostly law-abiding citizens with moderate views who trusted the authorities, and that, unlike the radicals, they would not act aggressively or make use of illegal instruments.
Meanwhile, the radicals became increasingly brazen in their actions and made more demands every year. They found it easy to force their will on the weak authorities, which were infected with the virus of nationalism and corruption as well and which artfully replaced the real cultural, economic and social interests of the people and Ukraine’s true sovereignty with various ethnic speculations and formal ethnic attributes.
A stable statehood has never developed in Ukraine; its electoral and other political procedures just serve as a cover, a screen for the redistribution of power and property between various oligarchic clans.
Corruption, which is certainly a challenge and a problem for many countries, including Russia, has gone beyond the usual scope in Ukraine. It has literally permeated and corroded Ukrainian statehood, the entire system, and all branches of power.
Radical nationalists took advantage of the justified public discontent and saddled the Maidan protest, escalating it to a coup d'état in 2014. They also had direct assistance from foreign states. According to reports, the US Embassy provided $1 million a day to support the so-called protest camp on Independence Square in Kiev. In addition, large amounts were impudently transferred directly to the opposition leaders’ bank accounts, tens of millions of dollars. But the people who actually suffered, the families of those who died in the clashes provoked in the streets and squares of Kiev and other cities, how much did they get in the end? Better not ask.
The nationalists who have seized power have unleashed a persecution, a real terror campaign against those who opposed their anti-constitutional actions. Politicians, journalists, and public activists were harassed and publicly humiliated. A wave of violence swept Ukrainian cities, including a series of high-profile and unpunished murders. One shudders at the memories of the terrible tragedy in Odessa, where peaceful protesters were brutally murdered, burned alive in the House of Trade Unions. The criminals who committed that atrocity have never been punished, and no one is even looking for them. But we know their names and we will do everything to punish them, find them and bring them to justice.
Maidan did not bring Ukraine any closer to democracy and progress. Having accomplished a coup d'état, the nationalists and those political forces that supported them eventually led Ukraine into an impasse, pushed the country into the abyss of civil war. Eight years later, the country is split. Ukraine is struggling with an acute socioeconomic crisis.
According to international organisations, in 2019, almost 6 million Ukrainians – I emphasise – about 15 percent, not of the wokrforce, but of the entire population of that country, had to go abroad to find work. Most of them do odd jobs. The following fact is also revealing: since 2020, over 60,000 doctors and other health workers have left the country amid the pandemic.
Since 2014, water bills increased by almost a third, and energy bills grew several times, while the price of gas for households surged several dozen times. Many people simply do not have the money to pay for utilities. They literally struggle to survive.
What happened? Why is this all happening? The answer is obvious. They spent and embezzled the legacy inherited not only from the Soviet era, but also from the Russian Empire. They lost tens, hundreds of thousands of jobs which enabled people to earn a reliable income and generate tax revenue, among other things thanks to close cooperation with Russia. Sectors including machine building, instrument engineering, electronics, ship and aircraft building have been undermined or destroyed altogether. There was a time, however, when not only Ukraine, but the entire Soviet Union took pride in these companies.
In 2021, the Black Sea Shipyard in Nikolayev went out of business. Its first docks date back to Catherine the Great. Antonov, the famous manufacturer, has not made a single commercial aircraft since 2016, while Yuzhmash, a factory specialising in missile and space equipment, is nearly bankrupt. The Kremenchug Steel Plant is in a similar situation. This sad list goes on and on.
As for the gas transportation system, it was built in its entirety by the Soviet Union, and it has now deteriorated to an extent that using it creates major risks and comes at a high cost for the environment.
This situation begs the question: poverty, lack of opportunity, and lost industrial and technological potential – is this the pro-Western civilisational choice they have been using for many years to fool millions of people with promises of heavenly pastures?
It all came down to a Ukrainian economy in tatters and an outright pillage of the country’s citizens, while Ukraine itself was placed under external control, directed not only from the Western capitals, but also on the ground, as the saying goes, through an entire network of foreign advisors, NGOs and other institutions present in Ukraine. They have a direct bearing on all the key appointments and dismissals and on all branches of power at all levels, from the central government down to municipalities, as well as on state-owned companies and corporations, including Naftogaz, Ukrenergo, Ukrainian Railways, Ukroboronprom, Ukrposhta, and the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority."