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Putin is using the Ukraine war to expand Russia but there are growing calls for independence from Moscow

In the last days of the Soviet Union, the former US Defence Secretary Dick Cheney saw an opportunity to go further – he wanted to see Russia break apart.

“Dick wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world,” recorded CIA director Robert Gates in his memoirs.

“Dismantlement” has also been a favourite theme of Vladimir Putin, who has presented himself as a protector of Russian territory throughout his reign, and used it to justify his war on Ukraine as an essential measure against an existential threat.

On the eve of the invasion, the regime’s security chief Nikolai Patrushev snubbed crisis talks with the US, claiming: “They are hiding their concrete goal, namely the collapse of the Russian Federation.”

In the fourth month of an ever-bloodier conflict with no foreseeable prospect of resolution, the idea of…

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