Russia’s chief intelligence officer said Monday that he backed a move to recognize Russian separatists in two regions of Ukraine as a pretense for invasion.
In a televised meeting on Monday, Russian Director of Foreign Intelligence Sergey Naryshkin expressed support for a suggestion to label “Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics to make them part of the Russian federation.” The intel chief’s comments, which Putin immediately made Naryshkin walk back, come as fears grow that Putin is attempting to create a pretense to send troops into Ukrainian territory.
During the exchange, Putin pressed Naryshkin to make a specific recommendation on how Russia should proceed in the situation with Ukraine. Naryshkin began by stepping lightly around the issue before recommending that Putin should move forward with a plan to recognize two Russia-led breakout regions of Ukraine before absorbing those regions into Russia. The exchange went as follows:
Sergey Naryshkin: I would like to agree with what [unintelligible] said with his suggestion that we can give our western partners the last chance to offer them to force Kyiv to choose the peaceful path and to implement the Minsk agreements. Otherwise we have to make the decision we are discussing today.
Vladimir Putin: What do you mean otherwise? You want us to start negotiations? Or you want us to recognize the sovereignty? Just say it directly.
SN: I would support the suggestion about recognition.
VP: I will support or I am supporting?
SN: I am supporting.
VP: So yes or no? Just say it.
SN: Yes, I am supporting the suggestion about making Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics to make them part of the Russian federation.
VP: That’s not what we are talking about. That’s not what we are discussing. We are talking about recognizing them as independent entities. Yes or no?
SN: Yes, I support the suggestion about recognizing their independence.
VP: Thank you. You can take your seat.
An illuminating exchange — first, Russia’s intel chief seems to hem & haw & try to weakly dodge giving the exact answer Putin wants, so Putin berates him, but then the intel chief accidentally (?) says the quiet part out loud, so Putin berates him again.pic.twitter.com/3csoZ2396u
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) February 21, 2022
Putin moved forward with the proposal to back Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Monday.
“The situation in Donbas is becoming critical,” Putin said in a televised address on Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Ukraine is not just a neighbor. It is an inherent part of our own history, culture and spiritual space.”
Putin also appeared to lay the groundwork for a potential invasion of Ukraine. As WSJ reported:
On Monday, Mr. Putin appeared to make the case for invading Russia’s smaller neighbor, describing Ukraine as a tool being used by the West for confrontation with Russia that “poses a very large threat” to the country, he said.
Mr. Putin also accused Ukraine of taking a hostile stance toward Russian-controlled areas of Donbas and said the government in Kyiv wasn’t willing to implement the Minsk cease-fire agreement signed after Ukrainian forces were routed in Donbas in 2015. Ukraine has rejected Moscow’s interpretation of the deal, which it says provides Russia’s proxies in the region a veto over any attempt to align Ukraine more closely with the West.
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