The shortest distance to Kyiv: we are talking about the possible offensive of Russian troops with political scientist Hryhoriy Perepelytsia


President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin commented on the possible invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. He noted that troops have been at the border since the beginning of the year. However, they say that no invasion has taken place so far. Putin also expressed concern about expanding NATO’s military infrastructure to Ukraine. And he warned that this could be a “red line” for Russia.

“The point is not to enter troops – not to enter, to fight – not to fight. The point is to build relations: to create fairer sustainable development, and to take into account the security interests of all participants in international activities. If we all sincerely strive for this, no one will feel any threats” – Putin said.

The topic of possible expansion of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in the program “Ukraine in fact” on the UA TV channel is being discussed with the director of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies, professor of Kyiv National University by Taras Shevchenko, Hryhoriy Perepelytsia.

Denys Pokhyla hosts the program.

– Only a conditional “NATO boot” on the territory of Ukraine can force Vladimir Putin to press a conditional “red button”?

– What can we get from Putin’s rhetoric? This is rhetoric in the spirit of the war against Ukraine. Because the ultimate goal – the destruction of Ukraine as an independent sovereign state – has not been achieved. Yes, Russia occupied part of Donbass and Crimea, but still Ukraine remained a sovereign state. Therefore, Putin’s ultimate goal has not been achieved.

What is he talking about now? He says the world is unfair. We must restore a “just world” when Russia has its sphere of influence and becomes a world power that dictates conditions to the whole world. What is needed for this? This requires absorbing the post-Soviet space. And on this path and in this space in the area of ​​Central and Eastern Europe, Ukraine occupies a key position. Therefore, the Ukrainian issue for Putin must be resolved unequivocally.

That is why Putin insists today, while building up a strike group, on a meeting with Biden to make him blink, and everyone capitulates. I would say: well, take Ukraine, but do not move on to NATO countries. This is the “peaceful” path that Putin is counting on. If this path is rejected, it means that a deep offensive operation will be carried out, which is what this group is preparing for [near the borders of Ukraine].

That is why it is important for Putin today to isolate Ukraine not only from international support, but also from minimal military aid. After all, the same saturation of Ukrainian units with Javelins (American portable anti-tank missile system, ed.) increases Russia’s military losses in the context of a deep offensive operation. This is the first.

Secondly, he says that “we do not intend to attack Ukraine.” But this is the trick of any aggressor, when he takes peace initiatives before the war to relax and disorient. Unfortunately, his rhetoric coincides with the official position of the Ukrainian authorities – that there is nothing to fear, that this is misinformation, no build-up, and we must be calm that, say, this movement of Russian troops is carried out annually, rotates in Donbass.

But this is not about Donbas. A large-scale offensive is underway. And for this purpose a strategic echelon is being formed, starting from Yelnya to Belgorod. And on this line two tank armies are already gathered here. In addition, a regiment of SU-34 bombers was deployed near Voronezh. There has never been such a rollover.

– If they talked about Donbas. Here the deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Viktor Vodolatsky declared that the first hundred inhabitants of so-called “LPR” and “DPR” who received the Russian passports joined Putin’s party “United Russia”. In the “DPR” the reception of applications for membership in the supporters of the party “United Russia” began in mid-July 2021, in the “LPR” – in September. How to assess such a political step, which is not in isolation from the military actions of the Russian Federation?

– These are elements of annexation of this occupied territory of Donbas. Russia seeks to strengthen its power, including party power in the territory.

What step can we expect? This can be extrapolated to Crimea, as it happened. And there was about the same trend. This is the integration of this population – not only into Russian society, but also into the Russian political system.

That is, the Russian government is being legitimized in these occupied territories. No longer the occupation, but the Russian government.

And if Russia launches a large-scale intervention, it will be under the slogan: “we protect our citizens, we protect our population” and so on.

That is, there is a struggle for this population. Ukraine is just trying to counteract this struggle.

– Doesn’t this violate the Minsk agreements, the Normandy format?

– This is a violation not only of the Minsk agreements. This is a gross violation of the Geneva Convention. Russia’s behavior in the occupied territories contradicts the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit conscription of the local population (and this is currently happening in Crimea), prohibit forcible or non-violent certification, cooperation with the occupying authorities, and so on.

Therefore, undoubtedly, this is not only a problem of Ukrainian-Russian relations. This includes international crimes in particular. But Russia, as we see, does not react to this.

– Recently, the leader of the Belarusian opposition Svitlana Tikhanovska during a speech in the European Parliament called the sanctions against Lukashenko “leaky.” Can the same be said about sanctions against the Russian president’s entourage (since there are no sanctions against Putin personally)?

– The question is what sanctions are and why they are adopted. The sanctions imposed by the United States of America and the European Union in connection with the occupation of Crimea and the occupation of Donbas are sectoral sanctions. They affect only 6% of the Russian economy.

Plus diplomatic sanctions on visa waivers, bans on entry to countries that have joined these sanctions. But the fact is that Russian officials are generally not allowed to leave. Especially the military. Putin forbade them to leave the Russian Federation before the war. As for big businessmen, they somehow find an opportunity to visit the West. Or because of the pro-Russian lobby they have in Western countries, but they are evading.

– And if we talk about our northern border. Belarus has announced joint military exercises with Russia near the border with Ukraine. However, a specific date has not been announced yet. Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said the maneuvers would take place “in the medium term.” In addition, from December 1, the armed forces of the republic will begin to actively engage in combat training. What does this mean for us?

– We understand that Lukashenko is no longer the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. He carries out only those instructions that come from the Kremlin, from the General Staff of the Russian Federation.

But I am concerned about these exercises, which have been announced by the Belarusian authorities and the military command. My assumption is that under the guise of these exercises, another group will be deployed on the southern borders of Belarus to prepare for a deep offensive operation on Ukraine, only from the north.

And this very clearly confirms the forecast given by our chief of military intelligence, showing the directions of the main strike. Although in 2020 the head of the Security Service of Ukraine also spoke about the formation of these areas, but then it was in the plans. And now we see that this is already being realized.

And this will be the most dangerous direction for the defense of Ukraine, because here is the shortest distance from our border to the capital of Ukraine – Kyiv.