March 4, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Medvedev declares that Ukraine ‘is of course Russia’

Institute for the Study of War

Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev promoted Russia’s extensive territorial objectives that expand deep into Ukraine’s territory. Medvedev gave a lecture on March 4 called “Geographical and Strategic Borders” at the Russian World Youth Festival, a Kremlin-organized event that includes attendees from more than 100 foreign countries, during which he claimed that “Ukraine is, of course, Russia.” Russian forces currently occupy the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast, but Medvedev defined all the territories on the left bank of the Dnipro River and many territories on the right bank of the Dnipro River as “integral” to Russia’s “strategic historical borders.” Russian forces currently do not occupy any territory in right-bank Ukraine. Medvedev spoke against the backdrop of a hypothetical English-language map of Eastern Europe that he originally posted on his Telegram channel in July 2022. The map depicts parts of western Ukraine under Hungarian, Polish, and Romanian control — furthering the recently reignited Kremlin narrative that eastern European states have “territorial disputes” in western Ukraine that is aimed at spoiling Ukraine‘s relationships with its western neighbors. The map shows Ukraine existing as a rump state only within the borders of Kyiv Oblast and the rest of modern-day Ukraine as part of Russia — well beyond the areas that Russian forces currently occupy, and the four oblasts Russia has illegally annexed. The fact that Medvedev reused a map from 2022 underscores that the Kremlin’s maximalist territorial objectives have remained unchanged since the beginning months of the war.

Medvedev argued that the influence of sovereign great powers, like Russia, extends beyond their geographic borders, catering to a wider maximalist ideological interpretation of the “Russian World” (Russkiy Mir). Medvedev repeated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s previous statement that “Russia’s borders do not end anywhere.” Medvedev alleged that a state’s strategic borders, which he differentiated from a state’s geographical borders, directly depend on “how strong and sovereign” the state and its authorities are. Medvedev claimed that the more “powerful” a state is, the “further its strategic frontiers extend beyond its state borders” and the larger the state’s sphere of “economic, political, and socio-cultural influence.” Putin made similar remarks recently that suggested that he views weaker states that are unable to unilaterally impose their will upon others, such as Ukraine, as having a truncated sovereignty. Medvedev claimed on February 22 that Russia “probably” must seize and occupy Kyiv City, which he labelled an historically “Russian” city, at some point in the future. Medvedev’s February 22 and March 4 statements suggest that the existence of a Ukrainian rump state in Kyiv Oblast — even after a hypothetical Russian-led negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine — may be temporary and subject to future Russian attacks. Medvedev also did not specify to where Russia’s “strategic” borders would extend should Russia’s “geographic” borders expand as shown in the hypothetical map he presented. The map is notably a conservative depiction of possible Russian territorial claims, given Putin’s recent geographic definition of Russkiy Mir encompassing the former Russian Empire, which includes parts of Poland, Romania, Finland, and Moldova.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev promoted Russia’s extensive territorial objectives that expand deep into Ukraine’s territory.
  • The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that unknown actors detonated explosives and severely damaged a Russian railway bridge over the Chapaevka River near Chapaevsk, Samara Oblast on March 4.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly awarded a Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) and Spetsnaz-affiliated Russian milblogger, likely as part of the Kremlin’s longstanding efforts to co-opt milbloggers and make them loyal to the Kremlin.
  • The Russian government reportedly hid data on recipients of social support services in 2022, likely to obfuscate casualties suffered in the first year of the war in Ukraine or to cover up the government’s inability to pay promised social support to vulnerable populations.
  • The Kremlin is continuing efforts to ensure high voter turnout in the upcoming presidential election to present the guise of legitimacy and widespread popular support among Russian President Vladimir Putin’s domestic electorate.
  • Russian authorities continue to exploit the leaked recording of German military officers discussing the theoretical provision of Taurus missiles to Ukraine to deter Western military aid provisions to Ukraine.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the entire frontline.
  • A Russian news aggregator claimed on March 4 that Russian forces replaced Storm-Z convict units with Storm-V units, a mechanism for distributing convicts into the regular Russian military as opposed to keeping them siloed within convict-only units, as was the case with Storm-Z formations.

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