Date: 24 April 2018
How Yanukovych facilitated the annexation of Crimea
There is no doubt that if it was not for the policy of President Viktor Yanukovych (in office in the years 2010-2014), the annexation of Crimea would not have happened, or at least it would not have been that easy for Russia. Turning a blind eye to the activity of Russian agents, the disarmament of one’s own Ukrainian counter-intelligence and army and finally signing unprofitable contracts with the Russian side – for all of this, Yanukovych is tried in absentia on a charge of high treason. Further evidence presented in court confirms that it is no accident that the president, who was overthrown in February 2014, took refuge in Russia.
The annexation of Crimea and the attempt to implement the New Russia scenario were not undertaken by the Kremlin under the influence of the developments, implying that they were not previously unscheduled. On the contrary, the plans for aggression were ready much earlier and it was only in 2014 that they were updated and put into effect, taking advantage of favourable circumstances. Former Putin adviser Andrey Illarionov claims that the first serious plan for a military solution to the “Ukrainian question” was approved at the end of 2004, when President Leonid Kuchma refused to suppress the “Orange Revolution” by force, as a result of which Viktor Yushchenko won the election. However, as it turned out, the Russian interests on the Dnieper river were threatened only for a couple of years. In 2010, Viktor Yanukovych won the election.
Afterwards, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) warned Yanukovych at least twice about the Russian threat to the independence of the Ukrainian state. The first letter is dated on 15 January 2013 and the second on 17 February 2014 – the Prosecutor’s Office presented both documents in court, where the trial in absentia of the former president is taking place. The defence of Yanukovych, who has been in Russia since 2014, claims that he was unaware of the existing threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity coming from Russia. The two documents contradict this statement. It can be noted that already in the first letter (January 2013), Yanukovych was informed that an interdepartmental government commission was formed in Moscow in order to “create political, humanitarian and economic conditions favourable for intervention in Ukraine”. According to SBU reports, the main positions in the commission were held by Chief of Staff of Presidential Administration Sergei Ivanov, Vladislav Surkov, who has been a presidential aide for Ukrainian policy in the Kremlin for years, and Head of Counter-Intelligence (SVR) Mikhail Fradkov. Moreover, the work of the commission was coordinated by President Vladimir Putin himself. Among the objectives that were set at that time in Moscow was “the establishment of the dominance of Russian energy companies in the Ukrainian market and the broadening of the influence in communications, machine industry, shipbuilding industry and other key sectors”. Later, Yanukovych completely ignored the reports of the counter-intelligence informing about the fact that in the second half of 2013, the number of Russian military aircraft flights near the Ukrainian border doubled.
However, Yanukovych did not react in any way to the alarming reports from the SBU. Besides, a few months after taking office, the president concluded an agreement about the cooperation between the SBU and the FSB, under which the Russian services were almost free to operate on the territory of Ukraine. The entire policy of Yanukovych started to fall into place: it weakened the Ukrainian state, paving the way for both the forthcoming annexation of Crimea and the attempt to separate the eastern and southern oblasts from the rest of the country. Under Yanukovych, the SBU was forbidden to deal with pro-Russian separatists in the Crimea and the FSB officially returned to the peninsula. The president’s party, the Party of Regions, co-governed the Crimean autonomy with local Russians, while the local SBU and militia were infiltrated and taken over by Moscow agents. The similar thing happened to the local military units to a large extent. That is why, the Russians took over the Crimea with such ease and a large part of the military and SBU officers went over to the Moscow side.
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