Mar 30, 2022
The notion that Ukraine is not a country in its own right, but a historical part of Russia, appears to be deeply ingrained in the minds of many in the Russian leadership. Already long before the Ukraine crisis, at an April 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Vladimir Putin reportedly claimed that “Ukraine is not even a state! What is Ukraine? A part of its territory is [in] Eastern Europe, but a[nother] part, a considerable one, was a gift from us!” In his March 18, 2014 speech marking the annexation of Crimea, Putin declared that Russians and Ukrainians “are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus’ is our common source and we cannot live without each other.” Since then, Putin has repeated similar claims on many occasions. As recently as February 2020, he once again stated in an interview that Ukrainians and Russians “are one and the same people”, and he insinuated that Ukrainian national identity had emerged as a product of foreign interference. Similarly, Russia’s then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told a perplexed apparatchik in April 2016 that there has been “no state” in Ukraine, neither before nor after the 2014 crisis.
The article is from 2020, but the same discussion is continuing; see eg the New York Times’ recent Putin Calls Ukrainian Statehood A Fiction. History Suggests Otherwise. I’m especially grateful to the Russian nationalist / far-right blogosphere for putting the case for Ukraine’s non-statehood in terms that I can understand: