Over the weekend, Dmitry Muratov of Novaya Gazeta came out and said that he had evidence that the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine was planned before Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled for Russia. The leaked document was published today in his newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.
According to Novaya, the document was presented to the Kremlin between 4 and 12 February (more than a week before Yanukovych fled to Russia). The paper points to “Orthodox businessman” Konstantin Malofeev as the potential sponsor of the policy recommendations (Malofeev has denied is involvement, and has threatened to sue the newspaper for its accusations).
“The document which we publish here is interesting because in the early stages of the Ukrainian political crisis – that is before Yanukovych fled Kyiv, and before the “Bandera junta” [ed. the derogatory term used by Moscow to describe the current government in Ukraine] – it laid out a step-by-step rationale, as well as political and PR logistics of Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs, and the separation of Crimea and the eastern regions from Ukraine. Although some adjustments were made during the actual course of the Ukrainian drama, in general, it is striking how closely the Russian government followed the project’s guidelines.”
Novaya Gazeta notes:
In general, it can be seen that the recommendations of the authors of the note for a phased Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs with the ultimate aim of capturing a number of Ukrainian territories were mostly implemented through the practical actions of Moscow:
- The organization of acts of disobedience against the Kyiv regime in areas with pro-Russian attitudes;
- giving this process “political legitimacy” and “moral justification”;
- the extension of protesters’ demands of a simplified Ukrainian referendum;
- then raising claims of “federalization” or even a “confederation”;
- the requirement of independence from Kyiv, and joining Crimea and the south-eastern regions [of Ukraine] to the Customs Union;
- the carrying out of “legitimate” and “honest” referendums on self-determination and unification with Russia;
- active PR-support of these processes in the Russian and Ukrainian media.
In my opinion, the Muratov revelations in Novaya Gazeta about Maidan reveal more about the mood in the Russian elite than anything else. This leak is not about Yanukovych, or the false narrative on Maidan that has been coming from the Kremlin. It is about the fact that the Russian elite are not happy with the way this war is going. Spend a few minutes on VK (a Russian version of Facebook) ultra-nationalists’ pages. Or you could just read Crazy Sergey Markov’s Facebook posts where he blames Putin for being too weak and too soft in dealing with Ukraine and the West. These all leave you with the impression that Putin’s position of power is not as secure as he or the Kremlin would like people to believe. His approval rating has long been considered over-inflated.
However, I don’t think a coup is in the offing at this moment in time. To changed leadership in the middle of a war would be a mistake, and I think the elite know it. I do believe that they will sacrifice some of the people named in the document: Konstantin Malofeev, and probably Igor Strelkov, and a few others. I doubt we have seen the last of Vladislav Surkov, despite rumors blaming him for the shootings on Maidan, and for the poorly run war. He’s a survivor, and he will most likely bounce back (again).