Putin Calls for Talks on “Statehood” for Southeastern Ukraine

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 31 2014 1:06 PM

Putin Calls for Talks on “Statehood” for Southeastern Ukraine

Par7963386
Russian President Vladimir Putin waves as he attends the World Judo Championships in Chelyabinsk on Sunday.

Photo by ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to up the ante on his Ukraine rhetoric by calling for immediate talks on “statehood” for southeastern Ukraine. In an interview broadcast on Russian state television, Putin called for “substantive, meaningful negotiations, and not on technical issues and on the political organization of society and statehood in the southeast of Ukraine.” A Kremlin spokesman quickly denied that the words meant Moscow was officially endorsing independence for rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. But it hardly seems like a coincidental wording considering it comes after he compared Kiev leaders to Nazis and warned the West not to “mess with us,” reports Reuters.

Use of the term “statehood” amounts to “a vague and provocative turn of phrase,” notes the New York Times. Although Putin has repeatedly said he does not favor breaking up Ukraine and only wants the east to get more autonomy, “the word ‘statehood’ suggests more than that, and if it reflects a major shift in Kremlin policy, it would be a direct challenge not only to Kiev but also to Western European nations and the United States, which have been trying to force Moscow to back down,” according to the Washington Post.

Advertisement

The words may ultimately amount to a big pressure tactic, writes the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg:

There is no doubt that Russia is determined to retain a degree of influence in Ukraine and to ensure, at the very least, that Ukraine never joins Nato. Moscow is equally determined to make sure the pro-Russian separatists avoid a military defeat.
Promoting "statehood" in the east is one way of increasing the pressure on Kiev to stop its military operation and start talks with the pro-Moscow militants—and with Russia itself.
If Kiev fails to do this, the Kremlin may well press for south-eastern Ukraine (or “Novorossiya” as Moscow increasingly refers to the region) to break away from Kiev.

Putin’s comments come as the European Union has warned it would impose new sanctions against Russia by the end of the week if the Ukraine conflict continued to escalate. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned Saturday at a EU meeting that his country could be “close to the point of no return” and a “full-scale war” could be imminent, reports the BBC.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 23 2014 12:48 PM Track Your Bag and Charge Your Phone With This Carry-On Smart Suitcase
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 12:01 PM Who Is Constantine, and Should You Watch His New Show?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.