Investigative Report Says Putin Made Decision To Invade Ukraine In March 2021
By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — An investigative report by the Vyorstka online newspaper says Russian President Vladimir Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine in early March 2021.
According to the report, which is based on interviews with sources close to the Russian leadership, Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine after Ukrainian authorities confiscated assets and media outlets controlled by Russia-friendly Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk in February 2021.
The preparations for the invasion, launched in late February 2022, took a year with Putin’s close associate, billionaire Yury Kovalchuk, the main supporter of the idea, the report quotes the sources as saying.
According to Vyorstka, Kovalchuk persuaded Putin that it was the right time to launch the invasion as the European Union was facing internal problems and disagreements on a number of issues.
A source told Vyorstka that initially Putin planned to openly threaten Ukraine with aggression in his controversial article On The Historical Unity Of Russians And Ukrainians, which was published in July 2021. However, the threat was taken out of the text at the last moment.
The report quoted a source as saying that a top Russian official said during private conversations on the sidelines of an economic gathering at the Valdai Discussion Club in October 2021 that Russia planned forcibly change the government in Ukraine.
Another source said that, in December 2021, Russia’s top officials discussed how Ukraine will be shared between major Russian corporations.
The report quotes a person whom Vyorstka called “Putin’s old friend” as saying that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu supported Putin’s plan as he was sure that the military operation would be quick, in a manner similar to the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
A source in Putin’s administration told Vyorstka that Putin planned to take over Ukraine quickly and did not expect it to last long. That, however, has been proven wrong with Ukraine putting up staunch resistance with the backing of NATO and many of its Western allies.
A former Kremlin official told the website that almost everyone in Russia’s political and military elite is against the war in Ukraine.
Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. According to the United Nations, as of mid-April at least 8,500 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and more than 14,000 civilians wounded as a result of the war.
Accurate numbers of military casualties are not available, but most analysts say both sides have lost thousands of soldiers in the fighting.