The Ukrainian law, which took effect last Friday, was designed to show that the central government is responsible for protecting the legal and cultural rights of Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks, three minorities that also happen to reside in Crimea. Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014. In Putin’s eyes, that makes them Russian citizens.
After its approval by the Ukrainian legislature, Putin not only protested the law but delivered a 5,000-word written manifesto in which he asserted Ukraine exists as a state due only to Russian tolerance.
“There is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people,” he said. “They are one with the Russians. The state of Ukraine is an artificial creation, a fluke of history that should be grateful to Russia for allowing it to exist.”
He added: “I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia.”