Does Russia Have a Secret Plan for Ukraine?

A new document shows the Kremlin is trying to prevent its southern neighbor from signing an important agreement with the EU or from acting against Russia's interests.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (2nd L) look at naval vessels during a ceremony to celebrate both Russian and Ukrainian Navy day in the Crimean port of Sevastopol (Reuters)

KYIV -- It has long been known that Moscow is determined to prevent Ukraine from entering into an Association Agreement with the European Union.

And now, it seems, the Kremlin has a plan.

At least that's what many in Ukraine are thinking after the newspaper "Dzerkalo tyzhnia" over the weekend published a 10-page document the paper claims was drafted by Moscow and its allies in Ukraine that outlines a multipronged effort to extend Russia's influence in the country.

Opinions vary on the authenticity of the document. But former Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko said he had no doubt it reflects Moscow's intentions.

"You probably noted such words as 'coercion,' 'forcing,' and so on [in the document]. This has been the core of Russia's policy toward Ukraine for a long time," Ohryzko said. "This is nothing new -- it is the continuation of the same imperialistic course.

"I hope this document will be read by as many Western diplomats in Ukraine as possible and that they will pass on the details to their capitals. Maybe it will help them reach the right conclusions and finally realize that there is a systematic ideological, political, economic, and information war being waged against Ukraine."

The paper lays out a plan for achieving three key goals: preventing Ukraine from signing an EU Association Agreement, creating an "influential network" of pro-Russian organizations capable of preventing the government from "undertaking actions that are not beneficial for Russia," and bringing Ukraine into the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union and Single Economic Space by 2015.

The publication comes at a time of high tensions between the two countries. Russia recently conducted intense inspections of all goods crossing the border, saying it was rehearsing measures that would be implemented if Kyiv proceeds with the "suicidal" agreement with the EU (Kyiv announced on August 20 the checks had stopped). Moscow has also specifically targeted the Roshen candy factory , which is owned by pro-Western former Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko.

The purported document states plainly that Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk and his Ukraine's Choice civic movement can play "a key role" in achieving its goals.

Medvedchuk was asked directly whether he was involved in drafting the paper. He responded with a written statement criticizing the "yellow press" for publishing unverified documents.

"This is not the first time the yellow press has tried to connect my name with various scandalous stories. And publishing their fantasies under the guise of 'secret documents' citing unclear sources is a device that charlatans in the mass media have resorted to for centuries," Medvedchuk's statement said.

Although Medvedchuk's statement said nothing specifically about the published document or his alleged role in creating it, it did affirm his support for Ukraine's membership in the Russian-led customs union and asserted that his activity and the activity of Ukraine's Choice is "completely open."

The controversy casts a spotlight on the position of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was widely viewed as a pro-Russian figure when he took office in 2010 on promises of improving relations with Moscow.

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