Russia is now attempting to split Ukraine the way the Koreas parted after World War II, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief said on Sunday.
Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, who predicted Moscow’s invasion last November, believes President Vladimir Putin had revised his plan of a full occupation after failing to capture Kiev and oust the administration of Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Kiev is located in northern Ukraine. Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula Russia annexed in 2014, is in the southern part of the country, as well as the besieged cities of Mariupol, Odessa and Kherson.
“It is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine,” Budanov said of the Kremlin’s new strategy. However, he said Ukrainians are yet to push back in full capacity.
“The season of a total Ukrainian guerilla safari will soon begin. Then there will be one relevant scenario left for the Russians: how to survive,” he said.
North and South Korea had been unified until the end of World War II, when tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union began to escalate. From 1945 to 1948, the Soviets installed a communist regime in the area north of latitude 38˚ N, or the 38th parallel, while Americans supported a military government south of the line.
Budanov’s prediction came after Leonid Pasechnik, who leads the separatist “Luhansk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, said that his constituents could soon hold a referendum on joining Russia, similar to what happened in Crimea in 2014.
“I think that in the near future a referendum will be held on the territory of the republic, during which the people will … express their opinion on joining the Russian Federation,” Pasechnik said.
Russian and Ukrainian delegates met in Istanbul for a new round of peace talks on Tuesday. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow would “drastically” reduce its forces near Kyiv.
Ukrainian fighters saw some success northwest of the capital on Monday. The area includes the contested suburb of Irpin, whose mayor later declared to be “liberated from Moscow’s evil.”
Still, U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken expressed skepticism on the latest negotiations, saying “there is what Russia says and what Russia does.”
“[I] can’t tell you whether these statements reflect a reorientation on eastern and southern Ukraine or whether this is a means by which Russia is trying to deflect and deceive,” Blinken said.
In an apparent scaling-back of its war goals, Russia last Friday also announced that it will focus on “liberating” the eastern region of Donbas, which covers separatists Luhansk and Donetsk. Observers believe the shift reflects Putin’s acknowledgment of his failure to invade Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy has asked for more weapons from Western countries. In a late night address on Sunday, he said Ukraine just needs “one percent” of NATO’s aircraft and tanks.
“That is what our partners have, that is what is just gathering dust there. This is all for not only the freedom of Ukraine, but for the freedom of Europe,” he said.
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