WASHINGTON – An advisor to the Kremlin warned Tuesday that aggressive action by western Ukraine toward the country’s pro-Russian southern and eastern regions could provoke a military reaction from Russia.
Andranik Migranyan, head of a pro-Kremlin think tank in New York, said in an appearance at a Washington research organization that Russia believes that the country’s pro-European west is deeply antagonistic toward Russia, even teaching its young people a hatred of Russia.
If moves by the pro-European forces in the west threaten the eastern provinces, “I can’t guarantee that the [Russian] Black Sea fleet would stay out,” he said at the Center for the National Interest.
Russia “doesn’t want on its border a population feeling hatred and being radically antagonistic,” said Migranyan.
Migranyan is a former advisor to the Russian Duma, who as director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation remains an informal advisor to the Kremlin.
Worries about a conflict between the two sides of Ukraine have grown since Saturday, when President Viktor Yanukovich fled the capital, Kiev, leaving the government in the hands of predominantly pro-Western elements.
Moscow has not threatened force. But it has denounced the protesters who forced out Yanukovich as coup-plotters and “fascists” and it is expected to use diplomatic and economic leverage to reassert its influence over the country.
Russia, which has a fleet based at Sevastopol, in Crimea, views close ties with Ukraine as essential strategically and economically.
At the same event, Germany’s ambassador to the United States said the West needs to be careful not to raise expectations in Ukraine that other world powers are prepared to bail out its collapsing economy.
“We don’t want to create the impression that we can solve the problems simply by raising money,” said Ambassador Peter Ammon.
Ukraine is facing austerity, he said. “Ukraine can only reform itself.”
Ukraine has a deeply corrupt government and an economy on the edge of collapse. Even as they privately discuss a multibillion-dollar aid package, many Western powers worry that they could be stuck paying a huge bill.