Russia is looking to annex more Ukrainian territory, the U.S. believes. According to the State Department and the U.S. Intelligence Community, Moscow is seeking to use bogus referenda to formally incorporate into Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine in the south and east of the country.
Annexing Ukrainian Territory
With the battle for Kyiv over, the Kremlin has shifted the goals of the Russian military. Now, instead of toppling the Ukrainian government and replacing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with a puppet, Moscow is seeking to consolidate any gains it has made and can make in east and south Ukraine. That is nothing new, as the Russian Ministry of Defense had stated on April 19 these goals.
But what is new is that the Kremlin might be looking at annexing more Ukrainian territory after the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
“I want to share with you all something that I spoke about at the OSCE’s Permanent Council recently, which is that we have information that Russia’s initial planning including – included a plan for a forced capitulation of Ukraine’s democratically elected government as well as dissolution of local government structures. And that plan, to the best of our information, included plans not just for a new government in Ukraine but also for a new constitution,” U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter said in a press briefing on Monday.
Throughout occupied Ukraine, the Russian forces have been going after the Ukrainian civil administration, imprisoning local officials and replacing them with pro-Russian administrators.
“I would highlight for you reports that we have seen of abductions of mayors and other local officials. We have received reports of enforced disappearances of a range of folks to include school directors, journalists, local activists, municipal officials. There have been reports of plans to impose a Russian school curriculum in the south and east,” Carpenter added.
Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson
The Russian efforts are mainly focused on Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson. Moscow has already recognized the independence of the first two.
“I think you’ve probably seen reports that Russia plans to force the local population to use the ruble. More recently, there have been reports as well that Russian forces have cut off internet and some cellular phone access in these regions in order to disable the flow of reliable information. And then finally, there is this phenomenon of the replacement of local municipal governments with these groups that are loyal to Moscow,” the senior U.S. diplomat stated.
There are also indications that Russia might be sending older reservists to the occupied parts of Ukraine to serve in policing capacities. Reports from Russia indicate that retired Russian troops between the ages of 40 to 60 have been called up and offered contracts to deploy into Ukraine and help in the administration of the occupied areas.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.