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Change or Continuity in Russia’s Strategy towards Secessionist Regions in the ‘Near Abroad’?


The 2008 invasion of Georgia, followed by the recognition of the independence of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the annexation of Crimea and the involvement in the war in Donbas, and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine have all marked the return to active Russian participation in separatist regions in the ‘near abroad’. They took the international community by surprise. To be sure, the Russian Federation had played a role in all previous secessionist conflicts in the former Soviet space. Nonetheless, Moscow’s post-2008 bold actions – open invasion, recognition of separatist regions and annexation of a neighbour’s territory – have marked an innovation in Russia’s foreign policy. This points to questions about how Moscow is legitimising these actions and whether the official narrative suggests a change in Russia’s strategy towards secessionist conflicts in the ‘near abroad’.
Keywords: frozen conflicts; Russian foreign policy; near abroad; Crimea; Ukraine; legitimisation