Russia has long ceased to conceal the fact of aggression against Ukraine. That is, the Kremlin’s official policy has not changed from the “we are not there” and "where is your proof" mantra but there have been much more public discussions on the topic. It’s personally President Putin who is setting the tone, naturally. In 2014, having occupied Crimea, he called his army "people's self-defense," but a few months later a new narrative was chosen: "we have never concealed" that it was the Russian military who occupied the peninsula. A little later, Putin contemplated deploying Russians "to solve military issues in Donbas." And more recently, in response to the question on when he "will seize Donbas," he said that he was analyzing the situation in order to "make a timely decision."
And now the dam has finally broken. Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the situation in Donbas cannot be changed with new shellings, while major Russian state television broadcasters regret in their broadcasts that Russia did not seize Mariupol as early as 2014, and now they just don’t want it.
But as soon as Russia is about to be called an aggressor state and occupier in Ukrainian legislation, the entire propaganda machine starts dodging, fidgeting, and yelling from TV screens: "It's not us!" This time, the reason was the announcement by the president’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada, Iryna Lutsenko, about the completion of the bill on Donbas reintegration, where Russia for the first time is legislatively branded an aggressor state.
None of the frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space has been resolved, and they won’t be, since it’s not for this reason that they are being incited by the Kremlin after all
Moscow’s first and main reaction is a show-off surprise and curses toward Ukraine and its "masters" either across the ocean or in Europe. The Russians have used every argument to prove, first of all to themselves, that they are no invaders but a great peacemaking nation and an intermediary in settling territorial disputes. However, none of the frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space has been resolved and they won’t be, since it’s not for this reason that they are being incited by the Kremlin.
The Federation Council believes that with the new law calling Russia an aggressor state the Kyiv government wants to distract Ukrainians from domestic problems. The State Duma believes that these initiatives are "inhuman" and they are for "internal use," while their goal is to break the last remaining ties between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. Russian deputies speak so much on the subject that they sometimes get overwhelmed and contradict Putin’s mantra about "one people."
It’s been three years already that the “junta” is in power, while they have not yet set up concentration camps. Some poor quality fascism it is, isn’t it?
And here is where the Russian propaganda media kick in, as usual. Russia-24 invented a new meme, similar to "crucified Slavic boy" and "repression against bullfinches." In their version, there is no Russian aggression because in Ukraine everyone wants early elections, while the president of Ukraine needs to introduce martial law in order to arrest opposition leaders and put them in concentration camps (!!!). Naturally, first of all, Russian speakers… It’s been three years already that the “junta” is in power, while they have not yet set up concentration camps. Some poor quality fascism it is, isn’t it?
But if you drop the Russian propaganda peel, it’s all quite different in practice. Indeed, the law on reintegration, or rather on the occupied territories, has long been overdue. For the Kremlin, the ability to continue torturing citizens of Ukraine in the occupied Donbas is a kind of self-assertion in their own eyes and an opportunity to harass the West. Moscow is not going to withdraw from the seized parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while Minsk-2 will be used to impose endless and fruitless negotiations. When all sensible parties try to avoid a big war, it remains to call things what they are. Not so long ago, it was done in the U.S. and France. It's time for Ukraine to fix this legislatively.
Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow