LONDON (Reuters) – One of the architects of the Moscow-backed separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine eight years ago said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a mistake, in comments which show that the Kremlin cannot count on the support of all pro-Russian opponents in kyiv.
Alexei Alexandrov was one of the leaders of a movement in 2014 to reject kyiv rule and create a pro-Moscow autonomous territory in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, sparking a war against Ukrainian government forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia attacked Ukraine last month in part to protect separatist territory in kyiv, although Western states say it is a pretext for an unprovoked land grab.
In an interview with Reuters last Friday, Alexandrov said: “All of this could have been resolved earlier, mainly through diplomatic means and perhaps an insignificant use of force. But it was not done, and it is a mistake on all sides”.
He said that because Moscow failed to negotiate a settlement with Kyiv guaranteeing the autonomy of Donbass and the rights of its inhabitants earlier this year, armed conflict became inevitable.
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Alexandrov said Moscow had for many years not understood how to deal with Ukraine, whose leaders he said were determined to crush the identity of the Russian-speaking community in eastern Ukraine. an allegation that kyiv and its allies deny.
“Moscow’s reaction was always late and never understood the situation,” he said. “It was a mistake, and we are now reaping the consequences in bloodshed, and multiple casualties on both sides.”
Contacted by Reuters, the Kremlin did not comment on the remarks by Alexandrov, who was chief of staff to the head of the parliament of the self-declared republic, Andrei Purgin, until the two men were ousted from their posts in 2015.
In the interview, Alexandrov said that once the active phase of the conflict in Ukraine is over, the long-term prospects for Donbass are unclear. He said he doubted Russia had the resources to bring all of Ukraine under its control.
If Russia maintained its presence in eastern Ukraine, there would therefore be a high probability of a new armed conflict with the Ukrainian state, Alexandrov said.
“This is not how it should have ended,” he said. “It’s not worth all the casualties.”
Alexandrov was part of a group of people who created the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in 2014, defying the regime in kyiv, after pro-Moscow Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by popular protests and replaced by leaders of western trend.
Since 2015, when his boss Purgin was removed from his post and briefly detained for reasons that were never clarified, Alexandrov has lived as a private citizen inside Russian-controlled territory and has held no office. official or elected office.
(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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