Insights on Crimea/Donbass from editor of Dozhd TV channel Mikhail Zygar’s book “All the Kremlin’s Men:”

Insights from editor of Russia’s Dozhd TV channel Mikhail Zygar’s book “All the Kremlin’s Men:”

  • Putin warned during the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest that Ukraine might end up without Crimea and E. Ukraine if it were to enter NATO.
  • “They say” that the Kremlin began discussing operation in Crimea in December 2013 when speaker of the Crimean parliament Konstantinov travelled to Moscow to tell Patrushev that Crimea would be ready “to leave for Russia” if Yanukovych is ousted.
  •  One “of the aides who participated in planning the operation in Crimea” has told the author of the book that the first ships with “little green men” departed for Crimea on 02.20.14.  So two days before Yanukovych’s ouster. However, at that time the Russian government has not yet developed a plan on how “to return Crimea so it was decided” to improvise.
  • At a meeting of Putin with tops aides (Ivanov, Patrushev, FSB’s Bortnikov, and Shoigu) on whether to take Crimea, which took place during the night of 02.22.14-02.23.14, Shoigu opposed, listing cons and urging caution, Patrushev “was heatedly” in favor.  Bortnikov was also in favor.  But the little green men had already been in Crimea by then, according to one of the aides quoted above.
  • Shoigu’s deputy Belaventsev was tasked with the political aspects of taking Crimea. He initially wanted Crimea’s then premier Mogilev to be the leader of that process, but Mogilev got cold feet, so Belaventsev then reached out to leader of local Communists L. Grach, but he had little authority, and that’s when local MP Sergei Askyonov was picked.
  • As of late February, Putin was yet to decide whether to incorporate Crimea into Russia. Liberals in the government were trying to convince him that Russia should recognize Crimea as an independent state, which is what it did with Abkhazia and S. Ossetia.
  • Putin’s aide and hardline economist S. Glazyev advocated use of force to incorporate E. Ukraine into Russia too, but Putin eventually sidelined him and put his long-time political aide V. Surkov in charge so that he can achieve a de facto separation of Donbass, but then make sure it remains part of Ukraine to be used as leverage if Kiev decides to go West.
  • As late as in July 2014, E. Ukrainian rebels were on edge of defeat. Donetsk People’s Republic’s PM Borodai told Russian billionaire K. Malofeev that DPR would last for about 2 weeks without Russia’s military help, which did eventually arrive.
  • When Russian forces were spearheading a counteroffensive in Donbass in second half of 2014, Putin got a call from Merkel who demanded to know what Russian soldiers were doing in E. Ukraine. Putin’s response was that those soldiers took leaves of absence before going to E. Ukraine. “OK, but do they go on vacation with their guns and military hardware?” Merkel asked. “Well, you know what thievery and corruption we have in our country, Putin allegedly responded, all this hardware must have been stolen from military storage facilities.” Merkel then hanged up. 
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