The threat that events would unfold in the post-Soviet space as they had in Yugoslavia was real. On August 26, 1991, Pavel Voshchanov , the press secretary to the Russian president, warned that the borders of Russia and the republics (excluding Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) could be “reevaluated” if they did not sign a Union agreement. The statement suggested Russian pretensions to territory in northern Kazakhstan, Crimea, and part of left-bank Ukraine. Voshchanov’s words elicited an angry response from the leaders of Kazakhstan and Ukraine: they saw it as blackmail. Moscow mayor Gavriil Popov made even greater territorial claims on Ukraine on August 27 and 28, 1991. They extended beyond Crimea and part of the left bank to Odessa and the Transdniestr.These forgotten speeches have a worryingly familiar ring. In his televised Q & A today Putin mentioned "Novorossiya" and talked of Russia being unjustly deprived of its share of strategic Black Sea coastline. Landlocking Ukraine would also handicap the state economically and allow Russia to link up with Transnistria.
Maybe Gaidar was over-optimistic and Russia has indeed found its own Milosevic after a twenty year period of grace. Ominously, Kyiv no longer has nuclear weapons to make Putin think twice about indulging in Greater Russian pretentions.