Narratives on the “inevitable” collapse of Ukraine, based on the concept of “false state”, have been promoted by Russia since the Euromaidan protests of 2014. After the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the Russian and pro-Russian media in Ukraine and in the Russian-speaking world is seizing every opportunity and story to recall that Ukraine is “a false state” that can collapse at any time. Oftentimes the information is deceiving, and the statements of certain experts / politicians are taken out of context.
“Novorossiya” project is not over, and Ukraine might be losing another six regions, Gennady Moskal, a retired general of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry told the “Apostrof” YouTube channel. […] Project “Novorossiya” includes the regions of Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Zaporozhe, Mykolaiv and Kherson. It’s a project masterminded by Surkov and Kozak. Who, then, are we negotiating with?” Moskal added, criticizing Volodymyr Zelensky’s policy regarding the military conflict in Donbass. […] Moskal was president of the Luhansk regional state administration over September 18, 2014 – July 15, 2015.
In 2014, territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions were proclaimed unrecognized republics, whose leadership announced the creation of the Novorossiya confederation. Plans were subsequently abandoned. The former head of the Donbass People’s Militia, Pavel Gubarev, at the time said another six regions in Ukraine are due to become part of Novorossiya: Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhe, Odessa, Mykolaiv, Kharkov and Kherson.
[…] Relations between Ukraine and Russia are volatile and oscillate between brotherly love based on a shared history and an aggressive nationalism towards Moscow.
NARRATIVES: 1. Ukraine is a false state. 2. Separatist regions emerged as a result of Ukraine’s false statehood, not due to external intervention. 3. Pro-Russian separatism is the result of growing nationalism. 4. The war in Donbass marked the beginning of a dissolution process that is bound to continue through the breakaway of another six regions in Ukraine. 5. Project “Novorossiya” [launched by Vladimir Putin] will be reactivated.
BACKGROUND: After the demise of the Yanukovych regime, the Russian Federation intervened in Ukraine by invading and annexing Crimea and backing separatist rebels in the Russian-speaking east. Separatist forces at the time benefited from Moscow’s direct help, which consisted both in military equipment and manpower. Russia is still trying to secure international legitimacy for the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Against this background, Russian and pro-Russian media in Ukraine and in the Russian-speaking world are using every opportunity to bolster the idea that Ukraine is “a false state” that can collapse. In this general context, Russian mass-media has published, in late 2020 and early 2021, a number of articles regarding “the continuous collapse of Ukraine”, claiming that a Ukrainian general has predicted Kiev might lose another six regions. Pro-Kremlin publications are quoting the former head of the Transcarpathia and Luhansk administrations and former director of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry department in Odessa, Gennady Moskal, but his words are taken out of context. Some media outlets have explained that Novorossiya will be revived in Ukraine due to an “increase in nationalism”. Moskal is quoted as saying “the regions might separate” from Ukraine, as it happened in 2014.
PURPOSE: To promote the image of Ukraine on the verge of collapse. The notion of “false state”, commonly used in hybrid warfare, is employed in this case in order to discourage efforts to support Kiev’s demand of observing international law. Moreover, Russia is presenting its actions in Donbass and Crimea as caused by “political necessity” and “historical truth”.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Moskal is misquoted as making a number of statements. For instance, the excerpts about “nationalism” in Ukraine or “the separation” of regions cannot be found in the interview Moskal gave to “Apostrof”. The Ukrainian politician was actually analyzing Russia’s 2014 acts of aggression against Ukraine, and not the current separatism in Ukraine’s regions. The interview can be accessed in full here (in Ukrainian).
GRAIN OF TRUTH: In the interview, the Ukrainian politician does not exclude the possibility of a new attack from Moscow on other regions in Ukraine, but he mentioned Novorossiya only in the context of the events of 2014. Moskal, who was the president of the Transcarpathia and Luhansk state administrations and is familiar with the real situation in eastern Ukraine, pointed out that, in the wake of Russia’s aggressions in Ukraine, Russian president Vladimir Putin is boosting his political score. Examining the possibility of a future escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Moskal said Putin needs to restore his approval rating, which means he does not rule out further military action in order to “bite off more chunks of Ukraine’s territory”. Gennady Moskal made no reference with regard to the “separation” or “self-determination” of the regions of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk. Moreover, the politician did not mention Ukraine’s “nationalism”.