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The Daily Vertical: A Coincidence? I Think Not! (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

Well, as if on cue, the pivot to Ukraine has begun.

Pro-Moscow separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine yesterday began issuing passports for the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic," the name that they have given to the territory they control.

After the ceremony issuing the first passports, separatist leader Aleksander Zakharchenko called the move "a very important step toward building statehood."

The move came just two days after Russia announced its pullback in Syria.

Совпадение? Не думаю!

No, this was not a coincidence.

It was transparent posturing as Vladimir Putin's regime tries to leverage the momentum from its Syrian gambit to get what it wants in Ukraine.

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Like the recent uptick in fighting in the Donbas, issuing the passports is a clear attempt to pressure Kyiv into taking the separatist-held areas back into Ukraine with broad autonomy -- and with their pro-Moscow leaders in place as their legitimate rulers.

It's an attempt to bully Ukraine into implementing the constitutional changes that would make this happen before Russia fulfills its obligations to pulls back its troops and weapons -- the ones it claims aren't even there -- and return the border to Kyiv's control.

It's an attempt to assure that elections in the separatist-held territories take place on Russia's terms.

And it's a signal that Moscow is prepared to freeze the conflict indefinitely if it doesn't get what it wants.

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