In July, Putin published a 5,000-word article, apparently based on his own historical research in which he wrote that he was “convinced that the true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia” and vowed Moscow would never allow the country to become “anti-Russia”. “In Putin’s understanding, the people of Ukraine are basically one with Russians, so they should support integration with Russia. But since the country is under the thumb of the west the people are being tricked — they’re hostage to geopolitical games,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political consultancy R. Politik. “If the Americans left, it’d be a unified state . . . and everything would be great. Or so Putin thinks.” The article sparked concerns in Ukraine that Putin — who has avoided requests to meet his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky and visibly lost interest in the Ukrainian peace process — had grander designs on the country.