Vladimir Putin has accused the west of trying to ‘violate’ and ‘dismember’ Russia in a bizarre rant that also threatened ‘scum traitors’ from within his own country who will be ‘spat out like a midge’.
The Russian President, speaking in a televised address from the Kremlin nearly three weeks into Moscow’s invasion, warned the West would use ‘those who earn their money here, but live over there’ as a ‘fifth column’ to ‘divide our society’.
He added: ‘Any people, and especially the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish the true patriots from the scum and the traitors, and just to spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths.’
The venomous tone was striking even for Putin, who has for years been cracking down on domestic opponents and delivering bitter tirades against the West.
He said: ‘I do not judge those with villas in Miami or the French Riviera, Or who can’t get by without oysters or foie gras or so-called ‘gender freedoms.
‘The problem is they mentally exist there, and not here, with our people, with Russia.
‘The West will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on traitors… to divide our society.. to provoke civil confrontation… to strive to achieve its aim. And there is one aim – the destruction of Russia.’
Russian opposition politician Mikhail Kasyanov, who served as Putin’s first prime minister in the early 2000s, condemned the remarks on Twitter.
‘Putin is intensifying his actions to destroy Russia and is essentially announcing the start of mass repressions against those who don’t agree with the regime,’ he said. ‘This has happened in our history before, and not only ours.’
In the rant, Putin went onto make a series of false claims, including that the war in Ukraine was a pretext for the west to impose sanctions because ‘they just don’t want a strong and sovereign Russia’.
He insisted the ‘military operation’ is going to plan despite his troops’ advance remaining largely stalled on the outskirts of Kyiv.
He also told Russians, in words ironically reminiscent of President Zelensky’s speeches, that ‘we are fighting for our sovereignty and the future of our children.’
The speech came after it emerged Putin’s forces had bombed a theatre sheltering hundreds of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, despite the word ‘Children’ being written in Russian on either side of it.
Putin said that the West’s ‘attempt to have global dominance’ is coming to an end. He also said Russia would repel any efforts by outsiders to ‘destroy’ it.
‘I am convinced that this natural and necessary self-cleansing of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, cohesion and readiness to meet any challenge,’ he added.
Russia experts said the message was chilling.
‘Putin in an Orwellian way has divided the citizens of Russia into clean and unclean,’ wrote Andrei Kolesnikov, a Moscow-based political analyst.
Since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, dissent in Russia has become even more dangerous.
Putin has blocked access to Facebook and major foreign news outlets, and enacted a law to punish anyone spreading ‘false information’ about its Ukraine invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
Thousands of people have been detained while protesting against the war, which Russia calls a special military operation to demilitarise and ‘denazify’ its democratic neighbour.
Several leading independent media organisations have suspended their operations.
Russia has opened at least three criminal cases against people for spreading what it calls fake news about the Russian army on Instagram and other social media, the Investigative Committee law enforcement agency said on Wednesday.
Tonight, a Russian journalist who made global headlines when she waved an anti-war sign during a live broadcast said she now fears for her safety.
Marina Ovsyannikova appeared at a Moscow court yesterday and walked free after a judge fined her 30,000 roubles (£215).
However, the fine was only for a video she recorded prior to the protest in which she said she was ‘ashamed’ of having worked at Channel One and spreading ‘Kremlin propaganda’ – not her interruption of the news broadcast.
It is feared Ms Ovsyannikova could still be hit with a prison sentence for the protest under Putin’s new crackdown.
But the defiant journalist said she foes not regret her actions.
She said she not only wanted to protest the war but to also send a message to Russians directly:
‘Don’t be such zombies; don’t listen to this propaganda; learn how to analyse information; learn how to find other sources of information – not just Russian state television,’ she said.
Russia-Ukraine war: Everything you need to know
Over 3 million people have fled, as Ukrainian cities face shortages of food, water, heat, and medicine – with thousands of British people opening up their homes to Ukrainian refugees.
Countries have retaliated by imposing sanctions on Russia and oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich, while large companies like Disney, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola have suspended business in the country.
However, despite these economic blows, Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t shown any signs of calling off the attack anytime soon.
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