Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the war against Ukraine in a state of the nation address on Tuesday.
The speech was originally due to be made in December but was postponed and comes ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Friday.
Putin spoke at length on a number of points including the impact of war on Russia, the influence of the West and its allies and the “Kyiv regime.”
He began by discussing the so-called “special operation” and claimed his country was facing a Nazi threat along with “constant threats and hatred” from the Ukrainian government.
He continued by claiming Russia tried to settle the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region peacefully, but said the West’s commitment to peace turned out to be “fraud”, and a “cruel lie.”
He then made an accusation without evidence that Kyiv was trying to gather biological and nuclear weapons.
“We were doing everything possible to solve this problem peacefully, negotiating a peaceful way out of this difficult conflict, but behind our backs a very different scenario was being prepared.
“The West were just playing for time, closing their eyes to political assassinations, mistreatment of believers,” he said.
The West is aware “it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield” so it launches “aggressive information attacks” by “misconstruing historical facts” attacking Russian culture, religion and values, Putin said in the speech broadcast by all state TV channels.
Citing another justification he has used for the war, Putin claimed his forces are protecting civilians in regions of Ukraine that Moscow has since illegally annexed.
Putin then accused the West of starting the war and insisted that Russia are the victims. He said: “Ukraine and Donbas have become a symbol of total lies,” He blamed the West for withdrawing from “fundamental agreements” and giving “hypocritical statements” as well as expanding the Nato defence alliance and “covering us with an umbrella.”
Putin’s refined propaganda makes it clear once again that he is at war with the West. The important was the threat that the more long-range missiles Ukraine gets,the further russia’s targets will be. Empty self-esteem boost.🇷🇺is afraid to fight NATO directly. It has noth for this pic.twitter.com/aGe1MmOnQk
— Iuliia Mendel (@IuliiaMendel) February 21, 2023
“I want to repeat: it is them who are culpable for the war, and we are using force to stop it,” he said to great applause.
Munich Security Conference
Putin then took a swipe at world leaders for comments made at the Munich Security Conference. He spoke of the accusations that had been thrown Russia’s way to deflect from Western actions.
He again laid the blame on the West for starting the war and insisted they are “disguising themselves with slogans of democracy and freedom.”
Continuing on this theme, Putin made historical references to the Nazi regime of the 1930’s saying the West “opened the way” for them to take power around the time of the Second World War, and says that since the 19th century the West has tried to tear away Russia’s “historical lands” – “what is now called Ukraine.”
Impact of war on Russia
After speaking at length about the rest of the world, Putin then turned his focus to his own country.
He started by thanking the military divisions for their services, adding: “I bow low to soldiers’ families and wives.”
He also thanked teachers, builders and farmers, among others who have fought on the front line.
His thanks then extended to the residents of the four Ukrainian territories which voted to join Russia in a widely-discredited referendum last autumn.
“There was nothing braver than your decision to be with Russia, with your motherland,” he said.
“For our ancestors and the future of our children and grandchildren… to restore the historical justice… for this our heroes are fighting,” Putin exclaimed. He then asked the audience to stand in honour of those Russian soldiers who have died.
The Russian president had postponed the state-of-the-nation address before; in 2017 the speech was rescheduled for early 2018.
Last year, the Kremlin also cancelled two other big annual events – Putin’s press conference and a highly scripted phone-in marathon where people ask the President questions.