Published: Less than 10 min ago
Vladimir Putin felt personally offended by an event in Ukraine at the beginning of 2021.
That made him decide to invade, according to new information unearthed by journalist Ilya Zhegulov.
– It was unexpected how absurd the reason for the war was, he says to Sydsvenskan.
Investigative reporter Ilya Zhegulov works in exile in Georgia. Among other things, he has worked for the independent Russian newspaper Meduza as well as the British news agency Reuters.
Just before the invasion, he published a book about the behind-the-scenes game in the Kremlin ever since the days of Boris Yeltsin.
Now he has reactivated his informants close to Putin to try to unravel the origins of the war in Ukraine. The result was an attention-grabbing article which was published in the exile Russian newspaper Vjortska on Tuesday.
– Of course, I cannot reveal my sources. But I have been in contact with people who are close to the president and to the presidential administration, says Ilya Zheguljov in an interview with Sydsvenskan.
Closed TV channels were the final straw
The article in Vjortska is also based on information from high-ranking sources in Kiev. Some of them are mentioned by name.
Zhegulov writes that Putin decided to invade Ukraine already around the turn of February-March 2021.
The decision was triggered by the fact that the Ukrainian government then shut down three television channels linked to the pro-Russian oligarch and member of parliament Viktor Medvedtjuk. He is friends with Putin in private and his daughter has the Russian president as her godfather.
Zhegulyov’s sources state that Putin felt personally offended by the attack on his friend. But the outrage was also about Medvedtyuk being Russia’s last hope of bringing about a change of power in Ukraine through political means.
– It looked as if it could succeed. Support for Zelensky’s party fell and Medvedtjuk’s increased. But then he was pushed away, says Ilja Zjeguljov to Sydsvenskan.
Escaped from house arrest
Medvedtjuk is said to have strongly contributed to Putin’s mistaken belief that the Russian forces would be received as liberators in Ukraine. According to Ilya Zhegulov, he had exaggerated the support for himself and other pro-Russian forces in the country.
Viktor Medvedtjuk was placed under house arrest in May 2021, suspected of treason. Just three days after the invasion in February 2022, he managed to escape. He was arrested by Ukrainian agents just over a month later and has now been handed over to Russia in a prisoner exchange.
Ilya Zhegulov is surprised that Medvedtyuk was so central to Putin’s decision.
– For me personally, it was unexpected how absurd the reason for the war was. The reason was that Medvedtjuk’s television channels were taken away from him and that his business activities were subjected to persecution, people began to squeeze him from all sides. It had a strong influence on Moscow’s further decisions, he says to Sydsvenskan.