Why Putin wants to erase Ukraine's distinct identity

Across two imperial epochs, Ukraine was reduced to a tributary state. Seen through a neo-imperialist lens, the rhetorical and physical erasure of Ukrainian history and identity would be necessary.

People at a rally in support of Ukrainian integrity in the port city of Odessa in southern Ukraine on Sunday. PHOTO: AFP
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President Vladimir Putin has long insisted that Ukraine is part of the country he rules. "Kyiv is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other," he wrote in March 2014 - a few days before completing the annexation of Crimea. The Russian President returned to this theme in an essay on the Kremlin's website in July last year when he wrote: "True sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia."

Seven months later, Mr Putin has doubled down on this idea. In an hour-long and fairly wide-ranging speech on Monday, he repeated that "Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space".

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