Moscow continues to insist that it recognizes the Donbas as part of Ukraine and will seek its return to Kyiv’s control, but its agents in the unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” (DPR and LPR) are setting up special camps expanding patriotic instruction in the schools to prepare the young there for the annexation of the region by Russia, according to Vyachesav Gusarov.
Mr. Gusarov, a reserve officer of Ukraine’s intelligence service and an expert in the Information Resistance Group, describes this system in a September 28 interview with Kyiv’s Apostrophe news agency (apostrophe.ua/article/politics/2016-09-28/voyna-na-donbasse-v-dnr-i-lnr-detey-svozyat-v-voennyie-lagerya/7438).
Both the DPR and the LPR, he says, organized youth camps this past summer and also sent young people from there to other camps in Russia. In addition, the two “republics” have introduced “patriotic education” courses in the schools and organized Soviet-style Pioneer organizations.
And they have organized military training schools in the two oblasts, places which did not have such institutions in the past. All of these things, Mr. Gusarov says, are intended to prepare the Russian-occupied area to become part of the Russian Federation. “There is no doubt of that,” he says, given what Moscow is doing in Moldova’s Transdniestr region.
This is all part of Vladimir Putin’s plan to extend Russian influence and control across the entire former Soviet and former Warsaw Pact space – something that represents a threat to all the countries in these regions. Ukraine might at some point become a leader that could unite these countries in an anti-Russian coalition. But for the present, it is too weak to do so.
In other comments, Mr. Gusarov says that it is “not a very correct idea” to talk about Ukraine liberating Russian-occupied Crimea by military means. Ukraine isn’t ready for this, and Russia has created “a quite serious military sector that would be able to ensure serious resistance to any Ukrainian move.”
What makes Mr. Gusarov’s observations about the DPR and LPR actions with respect to young people there significant is that they suggest Moscow is taking a long-term view and is creating a cadre of people who can be either a foundation for Russian expansion or a Moscow-organized fifth column should the Kremlin in fact hand the Donbas back to Kyiv’s control.
Paul Goble is a long-time specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia who has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau, as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The article above is reprinted with permission from his blog called “Window on Eurasia” (http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/).