An official in the Ukrainian region which Moscow claims to have annexed has said Russia should try to take territory that was formerly part of the Russian Empire “through the might” of weapons.
In September 2022, Zaporizhzhia was one of four Ukrainian regions that Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed, the others being Kherson, Luhansk and Donetsk, although Moscow does not fully control any of them.
But the top Kremlin-installed official in the oblast, Yevgeny Balitsky, said Russia should also have its eye on the Baltic states, as well as Poland and Finland, all five of which are NATO countries.
In April, Finland became NATO’s 31st member, joining Poland and the Baltic states in the 31-member alliance, whose fifth article says that an attack on one state is an attack on all.
In the interview shared by Russia watcher Julia Davis, Balitsky seemed ready to take on the alliance as he spoke of how the Russian Empire that ended with the 1917 revolution had “lost its footing” as well as “great numbers of people.”
“I’m not even talking about territories. I understand that it includes Warsaw, Helsinki, also known as Helsingfors,” he said.
The Russian Empire, which existed between 1721 and 1917, covered a vast territory. Finland was part of Russia’s empire until it declared its independence after the Russian Revolution. The 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk saw revolutionary Russia renounce its claims on Polish territories.
Balitsky described how “all of the Baltics” were “all our lands, and our people live there,” noting the Russian-speaking population in those countries.
“They were turned into a voiceless heard, they became trembling beasts,” he said. “We have to correct this…through the might of Russian weapons.
“I don’t believe in any diplomacy in this instance. Of course diplomacy always has to be present but I believe we can get it back only with the might of Russian weapons.”
He said that Russia can “get our people back, the former subjects of the Russian Empire” so that the “whole world does not turn into Sodom and Gomorrah like it is happening in Europe.”
Moscow has justified its full-scale invasion of Ukraine as a bid to curb the expansion of NATO and “denazify.” But there is rhetoric from Kremlin propagandists about restoring the Russian Empire, with many Western analysts framing the war within the context of Putin’s imperial ambitions.
After Russian marked the first anniversary of the so-called annexation of the four Ukrainian territories on September 30, propagandist Sergey Mardan spoke about the new holiday as marking Russia’s supposed journey to restoring itself into an empire.
He said on his show Mardan Live that “the restoration of the Russian Empire” was what the celebration on September 30 “is all about.”
Newsweek has emailed the Russian foreign ministry for comment.