Victor Yanukovich is expected to speak in Rostov-on-Don today. It could be yet another asinine press conference but the alarmist in me feels otherwise. What if Yanukovich asks – “as the legitimate president, I hereby request” – Putin to “restore the constitutional order” in Ukraine?
That would send Russian tanks rolling in. Russia has spent enough money on the army since the 2008 war with Georgia, and the general staff surely has various long-cherished invasion scenarios. One possible route is from the north down to Kyiv.
On the other hand, while taking Kyiv and reinstalling Yanukovich in his palace sounds like an instant solution, bloodshed would be all but guaranteed. Kharkiv is much closer to the border – it’s only 50 miles away from Belgorod, and 25 miles from the border crossing. It is less anti-Russian than Kyiv and was the capital of Soviet Ukraine in 1919-34.
For several months in 1918-19, Kharkov was the capital of the short-lived Donetsk-Krivoy Rog (Kryvy Rih) Soviet Republic (DKSR), a Bolshevik statelet. Adding together the nominal territory of the DKSR and of the similarly ephemeral Odessa Soviet Republlc covers pretty much all of Ukraine’s South-West, and then some.