Personal resentment and a desire for revenge were the driving factors behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, an investigation has claimed.
Verstka, an independent Russian news outlet that was founded shortly after the conflict began, published a deep-dive report this week entitled “How Putin Came to Hate Ukraine,” which cites former and current officials in the Russian and Ukrainian governments.
Kremlin reporter Ilya Zhegulev wrote that loyal Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk is at the center of the Russian leader’s so-called “special military operation” in the neighboring country and that he had already decided to attack Kyiv in February-March 2021.
Medvedchuk is a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian oligarch who was released by Kyiv in a prisoner swap with Russia in September 2022. The 68-year-old has close ties with Putin, who is believed to be the godfather of his youngest daughter.
Medvedchuk was the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party in Ukraine and was detained in April 2022 by Ukraine’s state security service, the SBU, after he fled house arrest while awaiting trial on treason charges. Kyiv has stripped him of his Ukrainian citizenship.
In 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree sanctioning three television stations affiliated with Medvedchuk, stopping them from broadcasting. For Putin, this was “the final straw,” Verstka wrote.
“In February 2021, a special operation was carried out, the purpose of which was to neutralize Medvedchuk,” the news outlet said, noting that the sanctions applied to 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK, and their owner, Medvedchuk associate Taras Kozak.
According to Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Center, although Kozak was the official owner of the television channels, their real beneficiary was Medvedchuk.
Zelensky said at the time that the television stations “carried out anti-Ukrainian propaganda” and “interfered with the process of the country’s integration into the European Union.”
These sanctions personally affected Medvedchuk, who, along with his wife, was listed in a March 2021 investigation by the Security Service of Ukraine on the financing of terrorism, Verstka wrote.
Three sources close to Putin confirmed that these developments were the final straw in Putin’s decision to prepare to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “The Kremlin decided not to resort to the tools of ‘soft power’ anymore.”
Putin was enraged by the “personal attack” on Medvedchuk, a longtime acquaintance of Putin told the independent media outlet.
Medvedchuk himself influenced the Russian president to invade Ukraine by regularly telling him about “pro-Russian sentiments in Ukraine.”
“He talked about the loyalty of the territory, stupidly misleading Putin,” a source close to the presidential administration said.
The Kremlin didn’t question Medvedchuk’s words, a source said.
“Instead of drawing conclusions about the adequacy of the information received, analyzing and seeing the obvious picture that they are not expected here, resentment and anger clouded their eyes.”