Atlantic Council analyst at SKAI: Russian provocations in Ukraine are not ruled out

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Atlantic Council analyst at SKAI: Russian provocations in Ukraine are not ruled out

No one can rule out the possibility of provocation from Russia to Ukraine, Atlantic Council analyst Milk Botsyorkiev, who lives in Kiev, told SKAI and Apostolos Maggeriadis.

In particular, he argues that no one can rule out a Russian provocation in the coming days that will push Moscow to invade Ukraine, while openly talking about a new Cold War in Europe.

At the same time, he speaks of a blow to the stability of Ukraine, which Vladimir Putin has achieved, without having to fire a single shot.

The interview

What is the situation right now? Are we really escalating or should we be more skeptical of Moscow?

Well, the Ukrainian government has said that it has not seen any evidence of withdrawal that the Russians are talking about. But look, the war is going on.

The war has been going on since 2014 and just today in the city of Lviv, where most of the foreign diplomats have been transferred, there were false threats of school bombs and many schools in the city had to be evacuated. Can you imagine how scared the children were? But this has been happening for many, many weeks all over Ukraine. And I think that is their medium-term plan, to destabilize the country. Many of these have already happened. The drop in business confidence and the blow to the tourism industry are among the two sectors that have already been hit hard without Mr Putin having to fire a shot.

If it’s all over today and there is no military involvement, which side do you think has won so far?

Russia will insist that Ukraine withdraw its application for NATO membership or autonomy for the occupied Donbass region. This is a very likely scenario here and Ukraine could not have won if either of these two things happened. If Ukraine is forced to capitulate, you will see people on the streets here. So this is a very, very delicate moment for the Zelensky government.

And what about the areas that want autonomy?

Look, the Russian-backed fighters in Donbas are claiming to be threatened by the Ukrainian side there. They had been preparing for weeks for a “Ukrainian attack”. It has not happened. And this is my fear that there will be some provocations or some kind of distraction operation and it will be used as a pretext for the Russian forces to invade at least this part of Ukraine.

In the wake of this crisis, should we now consider Ukraine’s possible NATO bid as a utopia?

Look, Ukraine has incorporated in its Constitution the pursuit of NATO membership. I think the West should honor its commitments to Ukraine and not let Russia dictate who joins NATO and who stays out of NATO. So it is very, very important for the West to maintain its position. But my fear, and that of others here, is that the West’s determination could be weakened and that they would provide some sort of escape route, as they call it, to Moscow. And this in the end will hurt Ukraine a lot.

Should we see this crisis as a reminder that the Cold War has returned to Europe?

Absolutely yes. And, you know, as long as Mr. Putin is in power, this is a man who works for his backwardness. He is older now and wants to be able to use this opportunity to redesign Europe’s security map, including that of Greece. Therefore, it is very, very important for the West to remain united and to stand against it. But look, the other point I will make is that anything that happens here in Ukraine will resonate around the world in minutes or hours. Higher gas prices, higher food prices, less security, more cyber attacks, and more. Therefore, one should not underestimate the Kremlin’s ability to cause problems around the world through this crisis.

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