Putin speech: Eight key claims from Russian leader – and the reality

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President Vladimir Putin’s speech to Russia’s elite on Tuesday came almost one year to the day since invading Ukraine. Here are eight key points from his speech, which was delivered to members of both houses of parliament, state officials, military commanders and soldiers. It lasted about one hour and 45 minutes.

West is seeking ‘global confrontation’ with Russia

“The elites of the West do not hide their purpose… That is, they intend to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation. This is exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly, because in this case we are talking about the existence of our country. But they also cannot fail to realise that it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield.”

It is not the first time Putin has accused the West of escalating the conflict, but he has ramped up his rhetoric to suggest that Britain, the United States and Europe pose an existential threat to Russia. However, his invasion of Ukraine is one of the clearest examples of unprovoked territorial aggression in modern history. And in contrast to other Western-led military operations, such as the invasion of Iraq aimed at removing Saddam Hussein, the supply of equipment and training to Ukraine’s military has been carried out within international norms and with the purpose of defending Ukraine. Nato forces might have superior technology but Russia’s military currently has about 1.1 million personnel compared to China’s 2 million and the United States and India with about 1.4 million, so Moscow is neither outnumbered nor unable to maintain its security.

Sanctions ‘have backfired on the West’

“They want to make the [Russian] people suffer [with sanctions] … but their calculations did not materialise… Those imposing sanctions are punishing themselves. They have caused price hikes, job losses, an energy crisis. And we hear them telling their own people that the Russians are to blame… The Russian economy and management system turned out to be much stronger than the West believed… We ensured the stability of the economic situation, protected citizens, saved jobs, prevented market shortages, including essential goods, supported the financial system…”

It is true that Britain and other Western nations are paying a high price for punishing Moscow, with most of Europe experiencing acute energy supply problems and painful inflation. Restrictions on oil have also taken many months to come into effect. However, Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov said in December that the oil price cap imposed by the G7 could push Moscow’s budget deficit higher than the expected 2 per cent of GDP next year. Meanwhile, the ruble has continued to fall and the war has dragged Russia into recession.

Ukraine is a puppet of the West

“I have already said many times that the people of Ukraine have become the hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western overlords, who have effectively occupied this country in the political, military and economic sense… Today’s Ukrainian regime essentially serves not the national interests but those of third countries.”

Putin continues to discredit Ukraine in order to cast doubt on its right to exist.

Russian culture under ‘attack’

“They distort historical facts, constantly attack our culture, the Russian Orthodox Church, and other traditional religions of our country. Look at what they do with their own peoples: the destruction of the family, cultural and national identity, perversion, and the abuse of children are declared the norm. And priests are forced to bless same-sex marriages… Millions of people in the West understand they are being led to a real spiritual catastrophe.”

Participants applaud Vladimir Putin after his state of the nation address in Moscow

Putin is waging a culture war in which he portrays himself as defender of traditional Russian values and suggests the existence of LGBT+ representation in other countries is a threat to ordinary Russians.

Elections in 2024

“I want to emphasise that elections of local and regional authorities this year, and the presidential elections in 2024 will be held in strict accordance with the law, taking into account all democratic and constitutional procedures.”

In parliamentary elections in 2021, opposition politicians were jailed or barred from running and critical media outlets were labelled “foreign agents” even before a single vote was cast. Golos, an election watchdog accused by authorities of being a foreign agent, recorded thousands of violations, including threats against observers and ballot stuffing, blatant examples of which circulated on social media. Some individuals were shown on camera appearing to deposit bundles of votes in urns. In Moscow, opposition candidates had been ahead in more than half of 15 electoral districts but all were defeated after electronic votes were added in.

Nuclear threat

“They [the West] want to inflict a strategic defeat on us and sneak into our nuclear facilities. In light of this, I am compelled to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty. The US is developing new types of nuclear weapons… if it holds [nuclear] tests, then we will too. No one should be under dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed.”

It is true that the US is updating its nuclear weapons and that it seeks a strategic defeat of Russian forces inside Ukraine, but Putin stops short of making the ultimate nuclear threat.

Residents in Russian-controlled Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, watching Putin speak on Tuesday

Keep money in Russia

“Trying to run around with your hand outstretched, grovelling, begging for money, is pointless… Launch new projects, make money, invest in Russia. This is how you will multiply your capital and earn people’s recognition and gratitude for generations to come… Recent events have convincingly shown that the image of the West as a safe haven, a refuge for capital, is a phantom, a fake.”

‘Difficult’ time for Russia

“I am making this address at a time which we all know is a difficult, watershed moment for our country, a time of cardinal, irreversible changes around the world, the most important historic events that shape the future of our country and our people, when each of us bears a colossal responsibility.

Source: Independent

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