Ever since Russia’s invasion and brutal warfare in Ukraine, there has been speculation about what Putin wants after a military victory. In my opinion, it is Putin’s desire for what is often referred to as Novorossiya and Malorussija (New Russia and Little Russia). Maps that the Russian-backed rebels in the Donbas have, in practice this means the entire coast along the Black Sea and all areas east of the Dnieper River. The Dnieper flows through Ukraine in the middle. If we are to follow this dream of Novorossiya, it will mean that the areas that have been occupied by Russia since 2014 will in practice take over as a puppet government in 2/3 of today’s Ukraine.
What is the long-term goal, why a puppet government?
Putin’s long-term goal is to secure the incorporation of Novorossiya into Russia. For Putin, it would be desirable if such reunification with Russia seems to come from the will of the people. I imagine that Novorossiya is ruled during a period of leadership from the occupied territories of the Donbas. Areas where torture, abduction and murder are well-known tools against those who express resistance. A fictitious referendum on reunification may be held and Putin uses this to legitimize his annexation of these areas. Of course, there is a possibility that the whole of Ukraine, including the west, is included in Putin’s plan.
Russia under Putin’s regime has a long tradition of having a puppet government in different parts of the world. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko would not remain in power without Russia’s help after the autumn 2020 election. An election he won due to electoral fraud and without legitimacy in the population. Alexander Lukashenko rules Belarus on Putin’s terms. Without Putin’s support, he’s done as president. The same can be said about the areas that Russia occupied in the winter of 2014 in the Donbas. They are governed by Putin’s terms. We see something similar in the occupied parts of Georgia, as well as in Syria. Putin directly controls other countries through puppets who do as he says.
What do we know about human rights in the Donbas?
The occupied territories of the Donbas have zero democracy and are governed exclusively as terrorist regimes. A UN report from 2014 states that torture, abductions and killings are used by the regimes in the Donbas. The use of the death penalty is also widespread. I wrote a blog about this a couple of years ago, feel free to read it .
In 2015, I wrote an article in maidan.no (which has now been discontinued). The article was about a family in Luhansk that I knew well after many years. This was a family where the family were immigrants from other parts of Russia back to the 1950s. What they said after returning to Luhansk was outrageous. They told me about the fear that the girl in the family (20 years old at the time) would be taken as a “joy girl” for the soldiers. They said that their hope for a peaceful life was shattered. I lost touch with them in 2015-16.
A war for democracy, against dictatorship
The war in Ukraine is a war between democratic Ukraine and the totalitarian regime in Russia. The war is a war between a president’s own definition of history and about a people’s will, a people’s culture and a people’s dream.
Ukraine can quickly be the first and greatest ordeal for democratic Europe that we know from the post-war period. A puppet government will never gain legitimacy among the people.