Five months after the start of its war of aggression against Ukraine, Russia has come as a surprise with the open threat of wanting to bring about regime change in Kyiv. Military expert Carlo Masala suspects an attempt by Putin to persuade Zelenskyy to give in on the Donbass issue by playing on European fears of a cold winter.

When Russia’s despot Vladimir Putin ordered his army to attack Ukraine and Kyiv on February 24, a surprising realization dawned on many stunned military strategists a few days later. Contrary to what was previously assumed, from the outset Putin was obviously not primarily concerned with just conquering the Donbass, but with subjugating the entire Ukraine.

Putin tried to blitz the Ukrainian capital to take out President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government and replace it with a vassal government that does what he wants. “Putin will try to kill Zelenskyy,” military expert Albert Stahel told FOCUS Online two days after the war began. And Gerhard Conrad, until recently still an active top agent of the Federal Intelligence Service, was certain that “the news of Zelenskyj’s death by Russian grenades or rockets would be a signal that would actually have the power to paralyze the resistance in Ukraine”. .

Military experts like Carlo Masala are cautious in their assessment: “Militarily, I think it’s impossible that Russia could take Kyiv in three days by surprise,” says the professor of international politics at the Bundeswehr University in Munich to FOCUS Online. “That’s Putin At the end of February, and he will not be able to do so now either, Putin would have to withdraw troops from Donbass, which would be a welcome opportunity for the Ukrainian army to regain territory lost there.”

Putin’s threat seems like an attack on possible peace negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv. But Masala believes that behind this lies Putin’s plan to divert Zelenskyy from his goal of retaking the Donbass region. And with it the 20 percent of the country that is currently controlled by the Russian army.

The military expert believes that regime change in Kyiv would not be an issue in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, which would be moderated by Western states. “Whether the Donbass provinces are autonomous with or without the Russian military, Putin wants Zelenskyy to desist from his goal of recapturing the Donbass. To do this, he needs the western community of states as an ally.”

Masala: “The Russians are currently considering holding referenda throughout the Donbass region for late summer and early autumn. If the people in these referendums vote in favor of joining the Russian Federation, the Duma could declare the Donbass region a part of the Russian Federation.”

It is true that this decision would not be recognized under international law. But that doesn’t matter. “From that moment on, Putin could interpret the Ukrainian attempts to recapture the Donbass region as an attack on Russia.” The previous “special operation”, as Putin trivialized the war of aggression against Ukraine, could then be followed by an official declaration of war by Russia against Ukraine. With potentially serious consequences that the Western negotiators would have to take into account in their deliberations.