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Kremlin intensifies rhetoric of dividing Ukraine for Western audience – ISW

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The Kremlin has intensified rhetoric about a hypothetical division of Ukraine and is latching onto unrelated topics.

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: ISW believes the Russians are doing this to normalise the narrative of a division in Western discussions about Ukraine. Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Head of Russia’s Security Council, claimed on 5 February that alleged European plans to build a railway line from Spain to Lviv are evidence of the West’s recognition that Lviv will become the “the new capital of Ukraine within the borders of [Lviv Oblast]” after Russia’s war in Ukraine ends.

ISW emphasised that this plan, in particular, has nothing to do with Ukrainian borders or the end of the war in Ukraine and is an independent European infrastructure project.

Notably, Medvedev posted his statements on his English-language account X (Twitter) rather than his Russian-language Telegram account, indicating that his statement was intended for an international audience rather than an internal Russian one.

ISW noted that Medvedev’s statement contributes to a Russian information operation that falsely shows Ukraine as an artificially constructed state.

They are doing this to reduce Western military support for Ukraine and to bring normalisation to Western discussions that are pushing Ukraine toward ceding significant parts of its territory and population to Russia as a way to legitimately end the war.

ISW also pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials have once more recently started using a narrative that sees the invasion of Ukraine as a historically justified imperial conquest.

In December 2023, they proposed to mainly Russian-speaking audiences that Russia and European states could divide Ukraine and leave it as a “sovereign” state within Lviv Oblast borders. This later attracted some attention from several right-wing nationalist Central European politicians.

ISW assessed that Putin is continuing to adhere to his maximalist goals in Ukraine, which amount to the complete capitulation of Ukraine and the West.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 5 February:

  • US Senate negotiators unveiled their proposed supplemental appropriations bill on 4 February that — if passed — would provide roughly US$60 billion of security assistance for Ukraine, the overwhelming majority of which would go to American companies and US and allied militaries.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated on 4 February that Ukraine needs to replace a “series of state leaders” across the Ukrainian government who are “not just in a single sector” such as the Ukrainian military.

  • The Kremlin is intensifying rhetoric pushing for the hypothetical partition of Ukraine by seizing on innocuous and unrelated topics, likely in an attempt to normalise the partition narrative in Western discussions about Ukraine.

  • Delays in Western security assistance continue to exacerbate Ukraine’s shell shortage and undermine Ukraine’s ability to use high-value Western counterbattery systems.

  • The Kremlin may not allow Boris Nadezhdin, the only anti-war Russian presidential candidate, to run in the March 2024 presidential election due to Nadezhdin’s larger-than-anticipated popularity.

  • The Kremlin is reportedly nationalising private enterprises in Russia quietly.

  • Russian forces made confirmed gains near Kupiansk, Kreminna, Avdiivka, and northeast of Bakhmut amid continued positional fighting along the entire frontline.

  • The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) may expand the list of courses available to women at the FSB Academy.

  • Russian occupation administrations continue efforts to indoctrinate Ukrainian children into Russian culture and nationalism through patronage networks with Russian federal subjects (regions).

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