With his military options narrowing in Ukraine, and falling oil prices and sanctions hurting at home, Aaron Korwea says Vladimir Putin is turing to the old Soviet playbook he knows so well:
So what to do? Enter Mykola Azarov, Ukraine’s last prime minister under Yanukovych. On August 3, Azarov—now living in exile in Moscow—formed the “Ukraine Salvation Committee,” whose goal is “regime change” back home. Azarov is wanted in Ukraine for several crimes including embezzlement and abuse of power.
The committee’s president is former pro-Russian MP Vladimir Oleynik, who helped draft the infamous 2014 “dictatorship laws” granting Yanukovych vast powers to squash the Euromaidan. Another member is Oleg Tsarev, one of the first people to propose the “Novorossiya project” and former speaker of the so-called Parliament of Novorossiya. Yet another interesting character behind the committee is Igor Markov, recently arrested in Italy by Interpol at the request of the Ukrainian government for his role in organizing an assault on a protester against the installation of a monument to the Russian Empress Catherine the Great in Odesa in 2007. Without a hint of irony, Putin’s international propaganda channel RT accused Kyiv of going after “a dissident politician.”
The timing of the formation of Ukraine’s Salvation Committee makes perfect sense. Putin needs to make a new move, and now he has a full-fledged Ukrainian puppet government-in-exile that could lay claim to the entire country.
Ukraine has turned into something of a pleasant surprise. As unlikely as it seemed a year ago, Kyiv has put up a stout defense — or at least an occasionally stout enough defense. Now Putin is forced to switch to political maneuvering like this so-called “Salvation Committee.”
It will be interesting to see if the young government in Kyiv is able to withstand political treachery as well as it’s been able to withstand constant low-level fighting and the loss of Crimea.