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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Martial Law Less about Occupation of Ukraine than about ‘Occupation of Russia Itself,’ Portnikov Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 20 – Vladimir Putin issued his declaration of martial law less to be in a position to absorb Ukrainian territory but rather to reinforce his own “occupation of Russia itself,” Vitaly Portnikov says. “That’s hardly news: any tyrant eventually turns to the task of occupying his own country and destroying anything there that limits him in any way.

            Moreover, the Ukrainian commentator continues, “there is always the temptation to take advantage of war and press his subjects harder” not only to carry out his aggressive plans but to work without adequate compensation and to silence any who might speak out against him (

            Putin’s first goal is the destruction of “disloyal peoples,” first and foremost the Ukrainians by invading their country but also the non-Russian people within the current borders of the Russian Federation leaving them without the population of active young people who might preserve the remnants of autonomy they still have.

            But his second goal, Portnikov continues, is “the destruction of those Russians ready to dissent.” Some are mobilized into the military, others are forced to flee the country lest they be mobilized, and still others who haven’t fled are either intimidated into silence or risk being thrown in prison or worse at any moment.

            Those who analyze Putin must always remember that “the main thing” for him at all times is to protect his power and block any threats, “even illusory ones,” to that power. His declaration of martial law in the Donbass and varieties of martial law in parts of Russia is all of a piece of that and nothing more.

            For a discussion of the various regions within Russia subject to various degrees of martial law and importantly to the fact that one region – the city of Moscow – is still exempt, see Tatyana Melikan’s article on how mobilization has changed life in Russia’s regions at

Window on Eurasia — New Series

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