HomeEuropeRussia signals it could try to seize Kyiv again at some point

Russia signals it could try to seize Kyiv again at some point

Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow, Russia, February 23, 2018.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A senior Russian official has signaled that Russian forces could make another attempt to capture Kyiv, after a failed attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital early in the war.

Deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, told Russian media agencies that Russia could “reach Kiev,” using the Russian spelling of the city, saying it could happen later, if not now.

“Where to stop? I don’t know … Will it be Kiev? Yes, probably it should be Kiev. If not now, then … maybe at some other phase in the development of this conflict,” Medvedev said in an interview with Russian media, including RIA Novosti, which published his remarks.

The comments suggest that, two years into the war and bolstered by recent gains, Moscow continues to harbor ambitions to conquer the whole of Ukraine and will not be content to occupy just a fifth of the country, as is currently the case.

Russia claims that the partially occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are now a part of Russia, a claim roundly rejected by Ukraine and its allies.

Medvedev, a former Russian prime minister and president who served alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin over the last two decades — albeit remaining subservient in either role — is as a vocal hawk in Russia’s political establishment and is known for his saber-rattling when it comes to the war.

Nonetheless, his comments indicate that within Putin’s inner circle, capturing Kyiv and destroying the pro-Western government under Volodymyr Zelenskyy remains a key ideological and political ambition.

In his latest interview, Medvedev commented that “this regime must fall, it must be destroyed, it must not remain in this world.”

Kyiv was a “Russian city,” he claimed, warning that in Ukrainian hands it was “a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation.”

“An international threat, because although Kiev is a Russian city in its roots, it is controlled by an international brigade of opponents of Russia led by the United States of America,” Medvedev said, echoing Moscow’s much-repeated claim that Western nations have coerced Kyiv into fighting Russia in a bid to destroy the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Former President Dmitry Medvedev in 2020.

Anadolu Agency

Russia has made no bones of the fact that it wishes to destroy the pro-Western government in Kyiv that’s led by Zelenskyy. Still, Moscow has generally toned down such rhetoric recently, given that its forces are tied up in intense fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine, with little apparent appetite to open a new northern front again.

Russia’s military ambitions

Early on in the war, Russia’s military ambitions were given a reality check amid staunch resistance from Ukrainian forces and strong support from its Western allies.

Russian forces were forced to beat a humiliating retreat on their approach to Kyiv amid heavy losses and logistical and supplies issues, and have since focused their efforts on consolidating territory they occupy in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Analysts question whether Russia would be content to occupy around 18% of Ukraine, as they currently do, without making another attempt to capture Kyiv in future, given Putin’s “imperial ambitions” and desire to restore Russia’s sphere of influence over Ukraine and other former Soviet states.

Close followers of Russian politics, and the president, warn that it’s unlikely that any peace negotiations or eventual political settlement to the war will dampen those ambitions.

“If Putin’s initial invasion plan had succeeded and his troops had captured Kyiv in three days as anticipated, he would have deposed the government and installed a puppet regime drawn from Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin political forces,” Peter Dickinson, editor of the Atlantic Council’s Ukraine Alert publication, said in analysis.

“The many people currently proposing peace plans may well have good intentions, but they are delusional if they believe Putin will be satisfied with relatively modest territorial gains in eastern and southern Ukraine,” Dickinson added.

“In reality, any concessions will merely whet his imperial appetite while convincing him of the West’s fundamental weakness. The Russian dictator is already openly comparing his invasion to Czar Peter the Great’s eighteenth century wars of imperial conquest. If Putin is rewarded for his aggression in Ukraine, he will inevitably go further.”

Russia’s military ambitions and morale have undoubtedly been boosted by the recent capture of the industrial city of Avdiivka in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. The victory marks the biggest gain for Russia since the capture of Bakhmut nine months ago.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian President Vladimir Putin about Avdiivka’s capture last Saturday, with the president congratulating troops on their “absolute success” and saying that it “needs to be built on.”

Capturing the city, much of which has been reduced to ruins, means that the front line moves farther away from the nearby city of Donetsk, protecting the regional capital and making it easier for Russian forces to push west.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War noted Tuesday that Russia is relishing its recent victory, stating that Putin and Shoigu have since “preened themselves on the Russian seizure of Avdiivka.” The success has come at a high cost, however, with estimates suggesting that Russia lost between 16,000 and 47,000 troops in the fight for the city.



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