LONDON (Reuters) – The powerful secretary of Russia’s Security Council said on Tuesday that Western and Ukrainian government policy was leading towards the break-up of Ukraine.
The comments from Nikolai Patrushev amounted to a warning that Russia’s war in Ukraine could lead to a carve-up of the country, for which Moscow would seek to pin the blame on its opponents.
In an interview with government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Patrushev – a key ally of President Vladimir Putin – said the United States had for years been trying to instil hatred for everything Russian in Ukrainians.
“However, history teaches that hatred can never become a reliable factor in national unity,” Patrushev said.
“If anything today unites the peoples living in Ukraine, it is only fear of the atrocities of nationalist battalions,” Patrushev said – a reference to units of Ukraine’s armed forces that Moscow has branded as Nazis as part of its stated rationale for invading the country.
Therefore the result of Western and Kyiv policy could only be the disintegration of Ukraine into several states, he was quoted as saying.
His comments, nearly nine weeks into the war, provided the latest indication that Moscow – despite saying at the outset that it had no intention to occupy Ukraine – is set on breaking up the country.
Having been beaten back in an initial attempt to storm Kyiv, Russian forces have regrouped for what Moscow says is a campaign to “liberate” the eastern Donbas region.
Last week a Russian general went further, saying Russia would look to take the whole of the east and south of the country.
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)