Russia is considering “a Korean scenario” for Ukraine and splitting the country in two after failing to seize the capital Kyiv and overthrow its government, the Ukrainian military intelligence chief has said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “will try to impose a dividing line between the unoccupied and occupied regions of our country”, General Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Ministry of Defence’s Intelligence Directorate, said on Sunday as reported by the ministry’s Telegram account.
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“It is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine. After all, he is definitely not in a position to swallow the whole country,” Budanov said.
The two Koreas are still technically at war after a 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, sealing the division of their peninsula with an impenetrable border. Their border is a 4km (2.4-mile) wide by 248km (154-mile) long area known as the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).
After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any major Ukrainian city, and Moscow signalled on Friday that it was scaling back its ambitions to focus on securing the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army for the past eight years.
“The occupiers will try to unite the occupied territories into a single quasi-state entity, which will oppose independent Ukraine,” said Budanov, the intelligence chief. “We are already seeing attempts to create ‘parallel’ authorities in the occupied territories and force people to give up the Ukrainian currency.”
A local leader in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic said the region could soon hold a referendum on joining Russia, just as happened in Crimea after Russia seized the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.
Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia – a vote that much of the world refused to recognise.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson also dismissed talk of any referendum in eastern Ukraine. “All fake referendums in the temporarily occupied territories are null and void and will have no legal validity,” Oleg Nikolenko told the news agency Reuters.
Budanov also said Russia was trying to install a land corridor to Crimea, but the plan had been so far prevented by Russia’s failure to capture the port city of Mariupol. The city on the Sea of Azov has been encircled by Russian troops for more than three weeks and faced relentless bombardment, but Mariupol authorities last week rejected an ultimatum from Russian forces for the city’s defenders to lay down their arms.