I recently came across a blog post about an ad campaign that Russians living in Ukraine have launched, telling the Russian government that they don’t want (or need) to be saved.  According to Putin, his intervention in Ukraine is to “protect” the country’s ethnic Russian minority.  In this video, Russian citizens living in Ukraine talk about how they never felt “mistreated” or “marginalized” in their new country.  The five Russians that show up in these videos claim to be totally happy in “this wonderful country” (Ukraine), and don’t need Putin interfering in their lives.

Optimized-Ethnic Map

A map of the various ethnic groups in Ukraine. Places where ethnic Russians make up a majority of the population are shown in red.

I’m not entirely sure what to think of this video.  The new Ukrainian government has proven itself to be hypocritical, and used some less-than-savory tactics.  For example, back when the protesters were attempting to overthrow the Yanukovych regime, there were reports of snipers attacking protesters and doctors.  This became a symbol of how corrupt and barbaric the Yanukovych regime was, and alienated many of the President’s closest allies.  However, during a leaked telephone conversation between Estonian foreign affairs minister Urmas Paet and EU foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton, it was revealed that the snipers were actually hired by members of the opposition movement.

It’s very possible that this video (which is released by the new “Euromaidan” regime in Ukraine) is all staged.  A lot of different regimes have released propaganda videos in the past, so it’s possible that this is just one of those.  That being said, I don’t think that the Ukrainian government is actively persecuting ethnic Russians.  I’m no foreign policy expert, but I think doing that would be diplomatic suicide.

If Putin is able to use the “I want to invade [insert former Soviet Republic here] to protect the ethnic Russians living there” excuse, then it sets a dangerous precedent.  Ukraine isn’t the only former Soviet Republic with a large Russian minority.  We all know about the Russia-Georgia conflict from 5 years ago, when Putin tried to annex South Ossetia, a region with a large Russian population.  Several years earlier, Putin offered to annex Belarus, a country where 70% of the population speaks Russian.  Russia’s Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Latvia, both have large Russian minorities as well.  And ethnic Russians make a up a large portion of Kazakhstan, especially in the northern regions, where they have close family and cultural ties to Russians on the other side of the border.