The current war in Ukraine has united Ukrainians from all linguistic and religious backgrounds, while also reinforcing the division between Russian and Ukrainian identities. However, it is doubtful that Russia will be able to annex Ukraine and impose its will on the country for good. Instead, it is likely that Russia will have to deal with the consequences of its own actions if it wants to retain its influence over the country.
During the 1920s, the Ukraine underwent a period of “indigenization,” with a high degree of Russification. This was partly due to the thin linguistic boundaries, which provided opportunities for advancement for Ukrainians who claimed Russian ethnicity. Moreover, Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost policy allowed nationalist movements to mobilize. However, the Kremlin wanted Ukraine to remain a part of a Moscow-centric confederation.
As a result, Russia has narrowed its focus in the battlefield and is not prepared to accept an independent Ukraine. Russian Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev has stated that Russia’s war objective is to keep Ukraine neutral, which means that it will reject Ukraine’s bid to become a member of NATO and the EU. The Russian state media has been relentless in its emphasis on this, claiming that the EU is not acceptable to Russia.
In early 2014, armed conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine erupted. This came as a reaction to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. This escalated to the point where the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, fled the country, and was replaced by Petro Poroshenko.