By Dylan Housman
Russian President Vladimir Putin skewered the leadership of Ukraine and the West in a speech Monday night, in which he gave his most aggressive remarks yet on the brewing conflict between Moscow and Kyiv.
Putin delivered nearly an hour-long speech lobbing allegations of foreign meddling in Ukraine against the west and reiterating accusations of oppression of ethnic Russians by the government of Ukraine. He called Ukraine a puppet state of the United States and officially recognized two separatist groups in eastern Ukraine as independent states.
The Russian president began the speech with a history lesson, in which he argued that Ukraine has always truly been a part of Russia that was “given away” by communists running the Soviet Union.
Ukraine is “an inherent part of our history, culture, spiritual space. They are our comrades, relatives, not only colleagues, friends, but also our family, people we have blood and family ties with,” Putin said, adding that the creation of a separate government in Ukraine was a “generous gift that even the most blatant nationalists could never dream of.”
Putin similarly criticized the “giving away” of Hungary and Poland by Soviet-era leaders, including Vladimir Lenin. He said that Ukraine was solely a creation of Lenin. Unlike Ukraine, Poland and Hungary are full members of NATO.
“Contemporary Ukraine should be called The Vladimir I. Lenin Republic of Ukraine. And then they tore down his statues and called it de-communization. You want decommunization? We’re prepared to show you what that really means for Ukraine.”
He continued to undermine Ukraine’s national sovereignty and framed the country as a threat to Russian security by calling it a puppet of Washington and claiming that NATO expansion to include Ukraine was a direct threat to Moscow. He argued that NATO air forces stationed in Ukraine could pose a threat to Russia and alleged, without citing evidence, that Ukraine could develop its own weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.
“The US and NATO have begun the shameless takeover of Ukrainian territory as a theater of future military activity.”
— Sam Greene (@samagreene) February 21, 2022
“Ukraine joining NATO is a direct threat to Russia,” he said. Then, he asked the west “Why are you trying to make Russia into an enemy?”
The answer, according to Putin, is that the West wants to destroy Russia.
He went on to accuse the United States and NATO of performing a “takeover” of Ukrainian territory to use it for future military operations.
Putin once again claimed there is a genocide happening against Russians and Russian culture and language in Ukraine, something which no international human rights organization has claimed is happening. He said the Russian language has all but been eliminated from Ukrainian life, which is not true.
The speech ended with Putin appearing to create a pretext for war, saying that Russia will have a strong response if Kyiv “continues” military actions.
Quite an anticlimactic end to an hour long speech. But he ended it with a clear threat of response if ‘Kyiv continues military actions’
Pretext is in place. War can be launched at any moment
— Dmitri Alperovitch (@DAlperovitch) February 21, 2022
The response throughout the world was quick and harsh, with Western leaders all promising sanctions. The White House said it will announce sanctions tomorrow preventing investment in the two breakaway regions Moscow recognized as independent, the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. The European Union, France and the United Kingdom all called for new sanctions to be imposed or promised to impose them beginning Tuesday. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Ukrainian MP Tells Biden What Would Really Stop The Russians From Invading)
Shortly after the speech, Putin ordered Russian troops into Luhansk and Donetsk on a supposed “peacekeeping” mission. The two territories, internationally recognized as part of Ukraine, have been at war with Kyiv since the Russian incursion on Crimea in 2014. Separatists in the two regions have been recipients of Russian backing since then.