President Vladimir Putin said that the conflict in eastern Ukraine would continue “as long as the current authorities remain in power.”
Putin’s message is a clear signal of his intent to prolong armed conflict in illegally occupied territories in eastern Ukraine if he is not pleased with the results of Ukraine’s 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Public opinion polls four months out from Election Day show us that none of the “Russia-friendly” candidates have any realistic chances of winning. Even if we see an unexpected outcome, the next president’s freedom of maneuver would be considerably restricted by the internal social and political situation, potentially to Putin’s displeasure.
Given the circumstances, we should anticipate that the Kremlin’s war card will be played throughout the 2019 electoral cycle in Ukraine, and we should be ready to counteract this.