Former US envoy Marie Yovanovitch says Putin doesn't want to 'own' Ukraine because it would require a 'modicum of responsibility'

Former US envoy Marie Yovanovitch says Putin doesn't want to 'own' Ukraine because it would require a 'modicum of responsibility'
Former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch said Russian President Vladimir Putin would need to exercise "at least a modicum of responsibility" if he were to "own" Ukraine.Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
  • Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said President Vladimir Putin doesn't want to "own" Ukraine.
  • She said doing so would require a "modicum of responsibility" on Putin's part, per The New Yorker.

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said in a recent interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't intend to "own" Ukraine because it would make him responsible for the country.

"When I was in the country, from 2016 to 2019, I always felt that he didn't really want to 'own' Ukraine because then there's at least a modicum of responsibility. He would have to provide services," she told The New Yorker's David Remnick, in an interview published on Tuesday.

Instead, Putin wanted to "make sure that Ukraine didn't have the power of self-determination" and desired to "keep it under his sphere of influence," she told the publication.

"What he discovered — due, ironically, to his own actions, particularly the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of the Donbas — was that he is the single biggest driver since independence, in 1991, of bringing the Ukrainian people together," Yovanovitch said, per The New Yorker.

In 2014, Russia annexed the region of Crimea, which is still internationally recognized as Ukrainian territory.


Yovanovitch told Remnick that in the early 2000s, "nobody" in Ukraine knew the lyrics of the country's national anthem. However, she said, "everybody knew the anthem" by 2016, per The New Yorker.

"They put their hands on their hearts. The same is true now, as Russian troops are targeting kindergartens," Yovanovitch told Remnick. The BBC reported on Monday that a kindergarten was among the civilian buildings hit by Russian fire in Okhtyrka, an hour's drive from Ukraine's northeastern border.

When asked by Remnick about Putin's claims that neo-Nazis are ruling Ukraine, Yovanovitch said: "Rather than delving into crazy conspiracy theories, I think what's important is just to understand that this is about President Putin."

"It's about his actions. It's about a military invading a peaceful neighbor," she said, per The New Yorker.

Ukraine's national guard includes a far-right nationalist group called the Azov Battalion, which has been accused of raping and torturing civilians and having links to neo-Nazis in the US.


However, Ukraine's elected leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a Jewish man whose family survived the Holocaust.

Yovanovitch was appointed as the US ambassador to Ukraine in 2016. However, she was removed from her post in May 2019 during former President Donald Trump's time in office after being targeted by what she described as a smear campaign by Trump and his inner circle.

In November 2019, Yovanovitch testified at an impeachment inquiry into Trump's dealings with Ukraine, for which she received a standing ovation.