A Russian newspaper claims to have an official government strategy document outlining the invasion of Ukraine that was prepared weeks before the Ukrainian government collapsed last year.
The editor of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitri Muratov, reported the document during an interview with Echo of Moscow, a radio station. In the interview, which was reported by news outlets Saturday, he did not reveal how the newspaper came into possession of the document in the media unfriendly Russian world, but said he had confidence it was authentic.
Novaya Gazeta is considered a rarity in Russia these days, an independent investigative newspaper that’s known to anger the Kremlin on a regular basis. The editor said the paper’s plan is to publish the full details of the strategy document next week.
Muratov said the document characterized then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych as “a person without morals and willpower whose downfall must be expected at any moment.” Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia on Feb. 22, 2014.
Muratov said the Russian document appears to have been drafted between Feb. 4 and Feb. 15 last year. He said the overall strategy included plans on how to break Ukraine into automonmous sectors, immediately attaching now war-torn southeastern Ukraine to Moscow’s tax union, with a longer term plan for annexation.
The plan suggested “the main thrust should be Crimea and the Kharkhiv region, with the aim of initiating the annexation of the eastern regions.”
The strategy document also calls for a public relations campaign to justify Russia’s intervention. The newspaper did not release further details of the strategy at this point.
However, Muratov said that the strategy paper contradicts the Kremlin’s claim that it annexed Crimea as a reaction to residents there feeling threatened by Ukrainian nationalists in Kiev. If authentic, the strategy document also would appear to have outlined the precise course of the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in the Donbas, which includes two regions, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Beyond that, Muratov said that while he could not definitively show who prepared the document, he could with some confidence speculate that the authors included Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofayev, who has been reported to have funded the pro-Russian uprisings in Crimea, including giving $1 million to the new mayor of Sevastopol.
Muratov said the document was passed from Malofayev to aids of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who then approved of the plan.
The report about the strategic document came as Russian news agency Interfax reported an early text of a Putin address next week for the “Defenders of the Fatherland” holiday. In that address, Putin reportedly will note, “No one should have the illusion that they are able to achieve military superiority over Russia. We will always have an adequate response to such adventures.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, speaking on the anniversary Friday of the death of 100 activists in and around Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan), said that recent events showed Russia’s hand in Ukraine’s suffering, including the Russian-backed rebels’ advance in the Donetsk region and the fact that even as a cease-fire was being signed they were speaking of next taking Kharkhiv, a prosperous industrial region in Ukraine’s northeast.
“Now it is finally proven that we did not fight Viktor Yanukovych on the Maidan a year ago,” he said. “He was just a brutal and willing puppet.”