Category: Vladimir Putin
On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians
worker | July 19, 2021 | 6:29 pm | Russia, Ukraine, USSR, Vladimir Putin | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/202107121083375385-on-the-historical-unity-of-russians-and-ukrainians/

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During the recent Direct Line, when I was asked about Russian-Ukrainian relations, I said that Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole.

These words were not driven by some short-term considerations or prompted by the current political context. It is what I have said on numerous occasions and what I firmly believe. I therefore feel it necessary to explain my position in detail and share my assessments of today’s situation.

First of all, I would like to emphasize that the wall that has emerged in recent years between Russia and Ukraine, between the parts of what is essentially the same historical and spiritual space, to my mind is our great common misfortune and tragedy. These are, first and foremost, the consequences of our own mistakes made at different periods of time.

But these are also the result of deliberate efforts by those forces that have always sought to undermine our unity. The formula they apply has been known from time immemorial – divide and rule. There is nothing new here. Hence the attempts to play on the “national question” and sow discord among people, the overarching goal being to divide and then to pit the parts of a single people against one another.

Russia Putin Direct Line
© SPUTNIK / SERGEI SAVOSTYANOV
Russia Putin Direct Line

To have a better understanding of the present and look into the future, we need to turn to history. Certainly, it is impossible to cover in this article all the developments that have taken place over more than a thousand years. But I will focus on the key, pivotal moments that are important for us to remember, both in Russia and Ukraine.

Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus, which was the largest state in Europe. Slavic and other tribes across the vast territory – from Ladoga, Novgorod, and Pskov to Kiev and Chernigov – were bound together by one language (which we now refer to as Old Russian), economic ties, the rule of the princes of the Rurik dynasty, and – after the baptism of Rus – the Orthodox faith. The spiritual choice made by St. Vladimir, who was both Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Kiev, still largely determines our affinity today.

The throne of Kiev held a dominant position in Ancient Rus. This had been the custom since the late 9th century. The Tale of Bygone Years captured for posterity the words of Oleg the Prophet about Kiev, “Let it be the mother of all Russian cities”.

Kiev-Pechora Monastery
© SPUTNIK / SERGEY PYATAKOV
Kiev-Pechora Monastery

Later, like other European states of that time, Ancient Rus faced a decline of central rule and fragmentation. At the same time, both the nobility and the common people perceived Rus as a common territory, as their homeland.

The fragmentation intensified after Batu Khan’s devastating invasion, which ravaged many cities, including Kiev. The northeastern part of Rus fell under the control of the Golden Horde but retained limited sovereignty. The southern and western Russian lands largely became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which – most significantly – was referred to in historical records as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Russia.

Members of the princely and “boyar” clans would change service from one prince to another, feuding with each other but also making friendships and alliances. Voivode Bobrok of Volyn and the sons of Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas – Andrey of Polotsk and Dmitry of Bryansk – fought next to Grand Duke Dmitry Ivanovich of Moscow on the Kulikovo field. At the same time, Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila – son of the Princess of Tver – led his troops to join with Mamai. These are all pages of our shared history, reflecting its complex and multi-dimensional nature.

Most importantly, people both in the western and eastern Russian lands spoke the same language. Their faith was Orthodox. Up to the middle of the 15th century, the unified church government remained in place.

At a new stage of historical development, both Lithuanian Rus and Moscow Rus could have become the points of attraction and consolidation of the territories of Ancient Rus. It so happened that Moscow became the center of reunification, continuing the tradition of ancient Russian statehood. Moscow princes – the descendants of Prince Alexander Nevsky – cast off the foreign yoke and began gathering the Russian lands.

Monument chapel near church of Alexander Nevsky in Ust-Izhora (fragment)
Monument chapel near church of Alexander Nevsky in Ust-Izhora (fragment)

In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, other processes were unfolding. In the 14th century, Lithuania’s ruling elite converted to Catholicism. In the 16th century, it signed the Union of Lublin with the Kingdom of Poland to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The Polish Catholic nobility received considerable land holdings and privileges in the territory of Rus. In accordance with the 1596 Union of Brest, part of the western Russian Orthodox clergy submitted to the authority of the Pope. The process of Polonization and Latinization began, ousting Orthodoxy.

As a consequence, in the 16–17th centuries, the liberation movement of the Orthodox population was gaining strength in the Dnieper region. The events during the times of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky became a turning point. His supporters struggled for autonomy from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

In its 1649 appeal to the king of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Zaporizhian Host demanded that the rights of the Russian Orthodox population be respected, that the voivode of Kiev be Russian and of Greek faith, and that the persecution of the churches of God be stopped. But the Cossacks were not heard.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky then made appeals to Moscow, which were considered by the Zemsky Sobor. On 1 October 1653, members of the supreme representative body of the Russian state decided to support their brothers in faith and take them under patronage. In January 1654, the Pereyaslav Council confirmed that decision. Subsequently, the ambassadors of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Moscow visited dozens of cities, including Kiev, whose populations swore allegiance to the Russian tsar. Incidentally, nothing of the kind happened at the conclusion of the Union of Lublin.

In a letter to Moscow in 1654, Bohdan Khmelnytsky thanked Tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich for taking “the whole Zaporizhian Host and the whole Russian Orthodox world under the strong and high hand of the Tsar”. It means that, in their appeals to both the Polish king and the Russian tsar, the Cossacks referred to and defined themselves as Russian Orthodox people.

Entrance of Bohdan Khmelnytsky to Kyiv
Entrance of Bohdan Khmelnytsky to Kyiv

Over the course of the protracted war between the Russian state and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, some of the hetmans, successors of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, would “detach themselves” from Moscow or seek support from Sweden, Poland, or Turkey. But, again, for the people, that was a war of liberation. It ended with the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667.

The final outcome was sealed by the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in 1686. The Russian state incorporated the city of Kiev and the lands on the left bank of the Dnieper River, including Poltava region, Chernigov region, and Zaporozhye. Their inhabitants were reunited with the main part of the Russian Orthodox people. These territories were referred to as “Malorossia” (Little Russia).

The name “Ukraine” was used more often in the meaning of the Old Russian word “okraina” (periphery), which is found in written sources from the 12th century, referring to various border territories. And the word “Ukrainian”, judging by archival documents, originally referred to frontier guards who protected the external borders.

On the right bank, which remained under the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the old orders were restored, and social and religious oppression intensified. On the contrary, the lands on the left bank, taken under the protection of the unified state, saw rapid development. People from the other bank of the Dnieper moved here en masse. They sought support from people who spoke the same language and had the same faith.

During the Great Northern War with Sweden, the people in Malorossia were not faced with a choice of whom to side with. Only a small portion of the Cossacks supported Mazepa’s rebellion. People of all orders and degrees considered themselves Russian and Orthodox.

Cossack senior officers belonging to the nobility would reach the heights of political, diplomatic, and military careers in Russia. Graduates of Kiev-Mohyla Academy played a leading role in church life.

Kiev-Mohyla Academy and its pupils. Engraving of the XVIII century
© CC0
Kiev-Mohyla Academy and its pupils. Engraving of the XVIII century

This was also the case during the Hetmanate – an essentially autonomous state formation with a special internal structure – and later in the Russian Empire. Malorussians in many ways helped build a big common country – its statehood, culture, and science. They participated in the exploration and development of the Urals, Siberia, the Caucasus, and the Far East. Incidentally, during the Soviet period, natives of Ukraine held major, including the highest, posts in the leadership of the unified state. Suffice it to say that Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, whose party biography was most closely associated with Ukraine, led the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) for almost 30 years.

In the second half of the 18th century, following the wars with the Ottoman Empire, Russia incorporated Crimea and the lands of the Black Sea region, which became known as Novorossiya. They were populated by people from all of the Russian provinces. After the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire regained the western Old Russian lands, with the exception of Galicia and Transcarpathia, which became part of the Austrian – and later Austro-Hungarian – Empire.

The incorporation of the western Russian lands into the single state was not merely the result of political and diplomatic decisions. It was underlain by the common faith, shared cultural traditions, and – I would like to emphasize it once again – language similarity. Thus, as early as the beginning of the 17th century, one of the hierarchs of the Uniate Church, Joseph Rutsky, communicated to Rome that people in Moscovia called Russians from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth their brothers, that their written language was absolutely identical, and differences in the vernacular were insignificant.

He drew an analogy with the residents of Rome and Bergamo. These are, as we know, the center and the north of modern Italy.

Many centuries of fragmentation and living within different states naturally brought about regional language peculiarities, resulting in the emergence of dialects. The vernacular enriched the literary language. Ivan Kotlyarevsky, Grigory Skovoroda, and Taras Shevchenko played a huge role here.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky with Tugay Bey at Lviv by Jan Matejko (1885)
© CC0
Bohdan Khmelnytsky with Tugay Bey at Lviv by Jan Matejko (1885)

Their works are our common literary and cultural heritage. Taras Shevchenko wrote poetry in the Ukrainian language, and prose mainly in Russian. The books of Nikolay Gogol, a Russian patriot and native of Poltavshchyna, are written in Russian, bristling with Malorussian folk sayings and motifs. How can this heritage be divided between Russia and Ukraine? And why do it?

The south-western lands of the Russian Empire, Malorussia and Novorossiya, and the Crimea developed as ethnically and religiously diverse entities. Crimean Tatars, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Karaites, Krymchaks, Bulgarians, Poles, Serbs, Germans, and other peoples lived here. They all preserved their faith, traditions, and customs.

I am not going to idealise anything. We do know there were the Valuev Circular of 1863 an then the Ems Ukaz of 1872, which restricted the publication and importation of religious and socio-political literature in the Ukrainian language. But it is important to be mindful of the historical context.

These decisions were taken against the backdrop of dramatic events in Poland and the desire of the leaders of the Polish national movement to exploit the “Ukrainian issue” to their own advantage.

I should add that works of fiction, books of Ukrainian poetry and folk songs continued to be published. There is objective evidence that the Russian Empire was witnessing an active process of development of the Malorussian cultural identity within the greater Russian nation, which united the Velikorussians, the Malorussians and the Belorussians.

At the same time, the idea of Ukrainian people as a nation separate from the Russians started to form and gain ground among the Polish elite and a part of the Malorussian intelligentsia. Since there was no historical basis – and could not have been any, conclusions were substantiated by all sorts of concoctions, which went as far as to claim that the Ukrainians are the true Slavs and the Russians, the Muscovites, are not.

Such “hypotheses” became increasingly used for political purposes as a tool of rivalry between European states.

Since the late 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian authorities had latched onto this narrative, using it as a counterbalance to the Polish national movement and pro-Muscovite sentiments in Galicia. During World War I, Vienna played a role in the formation of the so-called Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. Galicians suspected of sympathies with Orthodox Christianity and Russia were subjected to brutal repression and thrown into the concentration camps of Thalerhof and Terezin.

Thalerhof internment camp
© CC0
Thalerhof internment camp

Further developments had to do with the collapse of European empires, the fierce civil war that broke out across the vast territory of the former Russian Empire, and foreign intervention.

After the February Revolution, in March 1917, the Central Rada was established in Kiev, intended to become the organ of supreme power. In November 1917, in its Third Universal, it declared the creation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) as part of Russia.

In December 1917, UPR representatives arrived in Brest-Litovsk, where Soviet Russia was negotiating with Germany and its allies. At a meeting on 10 January 1918, the head of the Ukrainian delegation read out a note proclaiming the independence of Ukraine. Subsequently, the Central Rada proclaimed Ukraine independent in its Fourth Universal.

The declared sovereignty did not last long. Just a few weeks later, Rada delegates signed a separate treaty with the German bloc countries. Germany and Austria-Hungary were at the time in a dire situation and needed Ukrainian bread and raw materials. In order to secure large-scale supplies, they obtained consent for sending their troops and technical staff to the UPR. In fact, this was used as a pretext for occupation.

For those who have today given up the full control of Ukraine to external forces, it would be instructive to remember that, back in 1918, such a decision proved fatal for the ruling regime in Kiev. With the direct involvement of the occupying forces, the Central Rada was overthrown and Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi was brought to power, proclaiming instead of the UPR the Ukrainian State, which was essentially under German protectorate.

In November 1918 – following the revolutionary events in Germany and Austria-Hungary – Pavlo Skoropadskyi, who had lost the support of German bayonets, took a different course, declaring that “Ukraine is to take the lead in the formation of an All-Russian Federation”. However, the regime was soon changed again. It was now the time of the so-called Directorate.

Theresienstadt concentration camp
Theresienstadt concentration camp

In autumn 1918, Ukrainian nationalists proclaimed the West Ukrainian People’s Republic (WUPR) and, in January 1919, announced its unification with the Ukrainian People’s Republic. In July 1919, Ukrainian forces were crushed by Polish troops, and the territory of the former WUPR came under the Polish rule.

In April 1920, Symon Petliura (portrayed as one of the “heroes” in today’s Ukraine) concluded secret conventions on behalf of the UPR Directorate, giving up – in exchange for military support – Galicia and Western Volhynia lands to Poland. In May 1920, Petliurites entered Kiev in a convoy of Polish military units. But not for long.

As early as November 1920, following a truce between Poland and Soviet Russia, the remnants of Petliura’s forces surrendered to those same Poles.

The example of the UPR shows that different kinds of quasi-state formations that emerged across the former Russian Empire at the time of the Civil War and turbulence were inherently unstable. Nationalists sought to create their own independent states, while leaders of the White movement advocated indivisible Russia. Many of the republics established by the Bolsheviks’ supporters did not see themselves outside Russia either. Nevertheless, Bolshevik Party leaders sometimes basically drove them out of Soviet Russia for various reasons.

Thus, in early 1918, the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic was proclaimed and asked Moscow to incorporate it into Soviet Russia. This was met with a refusal. During a meeting with the republic’s leaders, Vladimir Lenin insisted that they act as part of Soviet Ukraine. On 15 March 1918, the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) directly ordered that delegates be sent to the Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, including from the Donetsk Basin, and that “one government for all of Ukraine” be created at the congress. The territories of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic later formed most of the regions of south-eastern Ukraine.

Under the 1921 Treaty of Riga, concluded between the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and Poland, the western lands of the former Russian Empire were ceded to Poland. In the interwar period, the Polish government pursued an active resettlement policy, seeking to change the ethnic composition of the Eastern Borderlands – the Polish name for what is now Western Ukraine, Western Belarus and parts of Lithuania.

The areas were subjected to harsh Polonisation, local culture and traditions suppressed. Later, during World War II, radical groups of Ukrainian nationalists used this as a pretext for terror not only against Polish, but also against Jewish and Russian populations.

In 1922, when the USSR was created, with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic becoming one of its founders, a rather fierce debate among the Bolshevik leaders resulted in the implementation of Lenin’s plan to form a union state as a federation of equal republics. The right for the republics to freely secede from the Union was included in the text of the Declaration on the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and, subsequently, in the 1924 USSR Constitution.

The USSR state flag and coat of arms at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses
© SPUTNIK / VLADIMIR RODIONOV
The USSR state flag and coat of arms at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses

By doing so, the authors planted in the foundation of our statehood the most dangerous time bomb, which exploded the moment the safety mechanism provided by the leading role of the CPSU was gone, the party itself collapsing from within. A “parade of sovereignties” followed. On 8 December 1991, the so-called Belovezh Agreement on the Creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States was signed, stating that “the USSR as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality no longer existed”. By the way, Ukraine never signed or ratified the CIS Charter adopted back in 1993.

In the 1920’s-1930’s, the Bolsheviks actively promoted the “localization policy”, which took the form of Ukrainization in the Ukrainian SSR. Symbolically, as part of this policy and with consent of the Soviet authorities, Mikhail Grushevskiy, former chairman of Central Rada, one of the ideologists of Ukrainian nationalism, who at a certain period of time had been supported by Austria-Hungary, was returned to the USSR and was elected member of the Academy of Sciences.

The localization policy undoubtedly played a major role in the development and consolidation of the Ukrainian culture, language and identity. At the same time, under the guise of combating the so-called Russian great-power chauvinism, Ukrainization was often imposed on those who did not see themselves as Ukrainians. This Soviet national policy secured at the state level the provision on three separate Slavic peoples: Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian, instead of the large Russian nation, a triune people comprising Velikorussians, Malorussians and Belorussians.

In 1939, the USSR regained the lands earlier seized by Poland. A major portion of these became part of the Soviet Ukraine. In 1940, the Ukrainian SSR incorporated part of Bessarabia, which had been occupied by Romania since 1918, as well as Northern Bukovina. In 1948, Zmeyiniy Island (Snake Island) in the Black Sea became part of Ukraine. In 1954, the Crimean Region of the RSFSR was given to the Ukrainian SSR, in gross violation of legal norms that were in force at the time.

Marshal of the Soviet Union Rodion Malinovsky during Victory Parade
© SPUTNIK / LOSKUTOV
Marshal of the Soviet Union Rodion Malinovsky during Victory Parade

I would like to dwell on the destiny of Carpathian Ruthenia, which became part of Czechoslovakia following the breakup of Austria-Hungary. Rusins made up a considerable share of local population. While this is hardly mentioned any longer, after the liberation of Transcarpathia by Soviet troops the congress of the Orthodox population of the region voted for the inclusion of Carpathian Ruthenia in the RSFSR or, as a separate Carpathian republic, in the USSR proper. Yet the choice of people was ignored. In summer 1945, the historical act of the reunification of Carpathian Ukraine “with its ancient motherland, Ukraine” – as The Pravda newspaper put it – was announced.

Therefore, modern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era. We know and remember well that it was shaped – for a significant part – on the lands of historical Russia. To make sure of that, it is enough to look at the boundaries of the lands reunited with the Russian state in the 17th century and the territory of the Ukrainian SSR when it left the Soviet Union.

The Bolsheviks treated the Russian people as inexhaustible material for their social experiments. They dreamt of a world revolution that would wipe out national states. That is why they were so generous in drawing borders and bestowing territorial gifts. It is no longer important what exactly the idea of the Bolshevik leaders who were chopping the country into pieces was. We can disagree about minor details, background and logics behind certain decisions. One fact is crystal clear: Russia was robbed, indeed.

When working on this article, I relied on open-source documents that contain well-known facts rather than on some secret records. The leaders of modern Ukraine and their external “patrons” prefer to overlook these facts. They do not miss a chance, however, both inside the country and abroad, to condemn “the crimes of the Soviet regime”, listing among them events with which neither the CPSU, nor the USSR, let alone modern Russia, have anything to do.

Poland border
© AP PHOTO / ALIK KEPLICZ
Poland border

At the same time, the Bolsheviks’ efforts to detach from Russia its historical territories are not considered a crime. And we know why: if they brought about the weakening of Russia, our ill-wishes are happy with that.

Of course, inside the USSR, borders between republics were never seen as state borders; they were nominal within a single country, which, while featuring all the attributes of a federation, was highly centralized – this, again, was secured by the CPSU’s leading role. But in 1991, all those territories, and, which is more important, people, found themselves abroad overnight, taken away, this time indeed, from their historical motherland.

What can be said to this? Things change: countries and communities are no exception. Of course, some part of a people in the process of its development, influenced by a number of reasons and historical circumstances, can become aware of itself as a separate nation at a certain moment. How should we treat that? There is only one answer: with respect!

You want to establish a state of your own: you are welcome! But what are the terms? I will recall the assessment given by one of the most prominent political figures of new Russia, first mayor of Saint Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. As a legal expert who believed that every decision must be legitimate, in 1992, he shared the following opinion: the republics that were founders of the Union, having denounced the 1922 Union Treaty, must return to the boundaries they had had before joining the Soviet Union. All other territorial acquisitions are subject to discussion, negotiations, given that the ground has been revoked.

In other words, when you leave, take what you brought with you. This logic is hard to refute. I will just say that the Bolsheviks had embarked on reshaping boundaries even before the Soviet Union, manipulating with territories to their liking, in disregard of people’s views.

detail of rare historic poster accredited to Lenin announcing birth of Soviet Union
YOUTUBE CAPTURE
detail of rare historic poster accredited to Lenin announcing birth of Soviet Union

The Russian Federation recognized the new geopolitical realities: and not only recognized, but, indeed, did a lot for Ukraine to establish itself as an independent country. Throughout the difficult 1990’s and in the new millennium, we have provided considerable support to Ukraine. Whatever “political arithmetic” of its own Kiev may wish to apply, in 1991–2013, Ukraine’s budget savings amounted to more than USD 82 billion, while today, it holds on to the mere USD 1.5 billion of Russian payments for gas transit to Europe. If economic ties between our countries had been retained, Ukraine would enjoy the benefit of tens of billions of dollars.

Ukraine and Russia have developed as a single economic system over decades and centuries. The profound cooperation we had 30 years ago is an example for the European Union to look up to. We are natural complementary economic partners. Such a close relationship can strengthen competitive advantages, increasing the potential of both countries.

Ukraine used to possess great potential, which included powerful infrastructure, gas transportation system, advanced shipbuilding, aviation, rocket and instrument engineering industries, as well as world-class scientific, design and engineering schools. Taking over this legacy and declaring independence, Ukrainian leaders promised that the Ukrainian economy would be one of the leading ones and the standard of living would be among the best in Europe.

Today, high-tech industrial giants that were once the pride of Ukraine and the entire Union, are sinking. Engineering output has dropped by 42 per cent over ten years. The scale of deindustrialization and overall economic degradation is visible in Ukraine’s electricity production, which has seen a nearly two-time decrease in 30 years.

Finally, according to IMF reports, in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Ukraine’s GDP per capita had been below USD 4 thousand. This is less than in the Republic of Albania, the Republic of Moldova, or unrecognized Kosovo. Nowadays, Ukraine is Europe’s poorest country.

Who is to blame for this? Is it the people of Ukraine’s fault? Certainly not. It was the Ukrainian authorities who waisted and frittered away the achievements of many generations. We know how hardworking and talented the people of Ukraine are. They can achieve success and outstanding results with perseverance and determination. And these qualities, as well as their openness, innate optimism and hospitality have not gone. The feelings of millions of people who treat Russia not just well but with great affection, just as we feel about Ukraine, remain the same.

Until 2014, hundreds of agreements and joint projects were aimed at developing our economies, business and cultural ties, strengthening security, and solving common social and environmental problems. They brought tangible benefits to people – both in Russia and Ukraine. This is what we believed to be most important. And that is why we had a fruitful interaction with all, I emphasize, with all the leaders of Ukraine.

Even after the events in Kiev of 2014, I charged the Russian government to elaborate options for preserving and maintaining our economic ties within relevant ministries and agencies. However, there was and is still no mutual will to do the same. Nevertheless, Russia is still one of Ukraine’s top three trading partners, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are coming to us to work, and they find a welcome reception and support. So that what the “aggressor state” is.

Police officers and opposition supporters are seen on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square in Kiev, where clashes began between protesters and the police. (File)
© SPUTNIK / ANDREY STENIN
Police officers and opposition supporters are seen on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square in Kiev, where clashes began between protesters and the police. (File)

When the USSR collapsed, many people in Russia and Ukraine sincerely believed and assumed that our close cultural, spiritual and economic ties would certainly last, as would the commonality of our people, who had always had a sense of unity at their core. However, events – at first gradually, and then more rapidly – started to move in a different direction.

In essence, Ukraine’s ruling circles decided to justify their country’s independence through the denial of its past, however, except for border issues. They began to mythologize and rewrite history, edit out everything that united us, and refer to the period when Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union as an occupation. The common tragedy of collectivization and famine of the early 1930s was portrayed as the genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Radicals and neo-Nazis were open and more and more insolent about their ambitions. They were indulged by both the official authorities and local oligarchs, who robbed the people of Ukraine and kept their stolen money in Western banks, ready to sell their motherland for the sake of preserving their capital. To this should be added the persistent weakness of state institutions and the position of a willing hostage to someone else’s geopolitical will.

I recall that long ago, well before 2014, the U.S. and EU countries systematically and consistently pushed Ukraine to curtail and limit economic cooperation with Russia. We, as the largest trade and economic partner of Ukraine, suggested discussing the emerging problems in the Ukraine-Russia-EU format. But every time we were told that Russia had nothing to do with it and that the issue concerned only the EU and Ukraine. De facto Western countries rejected Russia’s repeated calls for dialogue.

Step by step, Ukraine was dragged into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at turning Ukraine into a barrier between Europe and Russia, a springboard against Russia. Inevitably, there came a time when the concept of “Ukraine is not Russia” was no longer an option. There was a need for the “anti-Russia” concept which we will never accept.

Ukrainian Azov Batallion members participate in SS veterans' march in Riga, file photo.
© SPUTNIK / OXANA DZHADAN
Ukrainian Azov Batallion members participate in SS veterans’ march in Riga, file photo.

The owners of this project took as a basis the old groundwork of the Polish-Austrian ideologists to create an “anti-Moscow Russia”. And there is no need to deceive anyone that this is being done in the interests of the people of Ukraine.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth never needed Ukrainian culture, much less Cossack autonomy. In Austria-Hungary, historical Russian lands were mercilessly exploited and remained the poorest.

The Nazis, abetted by collaborators from the OUN-UPA, did not need Ukraine, but a living space and slaves for Aryan overlords.

Nor were the interests of the Ukrainian people thought of in February 2014. The legitimate public discontent, caused by acute socio-economic problems, mistakes, and inconsistent actions of the authorities of the time, was simply cynically exploited. Western countries directly interfered in Ukraine’s internal affairs and supported the coup. Radical nationalist groups served as its battering ram. Their slogans, ideology, and blatant aggressive Russophobia have to a large extent become defining elements of state policy in Ukraine.

All the things that united us and bring us together so far came under attack. First and foremost, the Russian language. Let me remind you that the new “Maidan” authorities first tried to repeal the law on state language policy. Then there was the law on the “purification of power”, the law on education that virtually cut the Russian language out of the educational process.

Lastly, as early as May of this year, the current president introduced a bill on “indigenous peoples” to the Rada. Only those who constitute an ethnic minority and do not have their own state entity outside Ukraine are recognized as indigenous. The law has been passed. New seeds of discord have been sown. And this is happening in a country, as I have already noted, that is very complex in terms of its territorial, national and linguistic composition, and its history of formation.

Ukrainian nationalists and servicemen of the Azov battalion demonstrate in Kiev. File photo
© AFP 2021 / GENYA SAVILOV
Ukrainian nationalists and servicemen of the Azov battalion demonstrate in Kiev. File photo

There may be an argument: if you are talking about a single large nation, a triune nation, then what difference does it make who people consider themselves to be – Russians, Ukrainians, or Belarusians. I completely agree with this. Especially since the determination of nationality, particularly in mixed families, is the right of every individual, free to make his or her own choice.

But the fact is that the situation in Ukraine today is completely different because it involves a forced change of identity. And the most despicable thing is that the Russians in Ukraine are being forced not only to deny their roots, generations of their ancestors but also to believe that Russia is their enemy.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the path of forced assimilation, the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressive towards Russia, is comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against us. As a result of such a harsh and artificial division of Russians and Ukrainians, the Russian people in all may decrease by hundreds of thousands or even millions.

Our spiritual unity has also been attacked. As in the days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a new ecclesiastical has been initiated. The secular authorities, making no secret of their political aims, have blatantly interfered in church life and brought things to a split, to the seizure of churches, the beating of priests and monks. Even extensive autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church while maintaining spiritual unity with the Moscow Patriarchate strongly displeases them. They have to destroy this prominent and centuries-old symbol of our kinship at all costs.

I think it is also natural that the representatives of Ukraine over and over again vote against the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism. Marches and torchlit processions in honor of remaining war criminals from the SS units take place under the protection of the official authorities. Mazepa, who betrayed everyone, Petliura, who paid for Polish patronage with Ukrainian lands, and Bandera, who collaborated with the Nazis, are ranked as national heroes. Everything is being done to erase from the memory of young generations the names of genuine patriots and victors, who have always been the pride of Ukraine.

Troops from the 1st Ukrainian Front in Krakow, Poland, February 1945.
© SPUTNIK / РИА НОВОСТИ
Troops from the 1st Ukrainian Front in Krakow, Poland, February 1945.

For the Ukrainians who fought in the Red Army, in partisan units, the Great Patriotic War was indeed a patriotic war because they were defending their home, their great common Motherland. Over two thousand soldiers became Heroes of the Soviet Union. Among them are legendary pilot Ivan Kozhedub, fearless sniper, defender of Odessa and Sevastopol Lyudmila Pavlichenko, valiant guerrilla commander Sidor Kovpak. This indomitable generation fought, those people gave their lives for our future, for us. To forget their feat is to betray our grandfathers, mothers and fathers.

The anti-Russia project has been rejected by millions of Ukrainians. The people of Crimea and residents of Sevastopol made their historic choice. And people in the southeast peacefully tried to defend their stance. Yet, all of them, including children, were labeled as separatists and terrorists. They were threatened with ethnic cleansing and the use of military force. And the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk took up arms to defend their home, their language and their lives.

Were they left any other choice after the riots that swept through the cities of Ukraine, after the horror and tragedy of 2 May 2014 in Odessa where Ukrainian neo-Nazis burned people alive making a new Khatyn out of it? The same massacre was ready to be carried out by the followers of Bandera in Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk and Lugansk. Even now they do not abandon such plans. They are biding their time. But their time will not come.

The coup d’état and the subsequent actions of the Kiev authorities inevitably provoked confrontation and civil war. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that the total number of victims in the conflict in Donbas has exceeded 13,000. Among them are the elderly and children. These are terrible, irreparable losses.

Ruins of the Saur-Mogila (Saur Grave) Memorial in Donetsk Region where festive events were held to celebrate the Day of Donbass Liberation from Nazi Invaders.
© SPUTNIK / VALERIY MELNIKOV
Ruins of the Saur-Mogila (Saur Grave) Memorial in Donetsk Region where festive events were held to celebrate the Day of Donbass Liberation from Nazi Invaders.

Russia has done everything to stop fratricide. The Minsk agreements aimed at a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbas have been concluded. I am convinced that they still have no alternative. In any case, no one has withdrawn their signatures from the Minsk Package of Measures or from the relevant statements by the leaders of the Normandy format countries. No one has initiated a review of the United Nations Security Council resolution of 17 February 2015.

During official negotiations, especially after being reined in by Western partners, Ukraine’s representatives regularly declare their “full adherence” to the Minsk agreements, but are in fact guided by a position of “unacceptability”. They do not intend to seriously discuss either the special status of Donbas or safeguards for the people living there. They prefer to exploit the image of the “victim of external aggression” and peddle Russophobia. They arrange bloody provocations in Donbas. In short, they attract the attention of external patrons and masters by all means.

Apparently, and I am becoming more and more convinced of this: Kiev simply does not need Donbas. Why? Because, firstly, the inhabitants of these regions will never accept the order that they have tried and are trying to impose by force, blockade and threats.

And secondly, the outcome of both Minsk‑1 and Minsk‑2 which give a real chance to peacefully restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine by coming to an agreement directly with the DPR and LPR with Russia, Germany and France as mediators, contradicts the entire logic of the anti-Russia project. And it can only be sustained by the constant cultivation of the image of an internal and external enemy. And I would add – under the protection and control of the Western powers.

This is what is actually happening. First of all, we are facing the creation of a climate of fear in Ukrainian society, aggressive rhetoric, indulging neo-Nazis and militarising the country.

Along with that we are witnessing not just complete dependence but direct external control, including the supervision of the Ukrainian authorities, security services and armed forces by foreign advisers, military “development” of the territory of Ukraine and deployment of NATO infrastructure. It is no coincidence that the aforementioned flagrant law on “indigenous peoples” was adopted under the cover of large-scale NATO exercises in Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attend a joint news conference following a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Kiev, Ukraine, July 10, 2017.
© REUTERS / VALENTYN OGIRENKO
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attend a joint news conference following a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Kiev, Ukraine, July 10, 2017.

This is also a disguise for the takeover of the rest of the Ukrainian economy and the exploitation of its natural resources. The sale of agricultural land is not far off, and it is obvious who will buy it up.

From time to time, Ukraine is indeed given financial resources and loans, but under their own conditions and pursuing their own interests, with preferences and benefits for Western companies. By the way, who will pay these debts back? Apparently, it is assumed that this will have to be done not only by today’s generation of Ukrainians but also by their children, grandchildren and probably great-grandchildren.

The Western authors of the anti-Russia project set up the Ukrainian political system in such a way that presidents, members of parliament and ministers would change but the attitude of separation from and enmity with Russia would remain. Reaching peace was the main election slogan of the incumbent president. He came to power with this. The promises turned out to be lies. Nothing has changed. And in some ways the situation in Ukraine and around Donbas has even degenerated.

Activists warm themselves at a fire in a camp at Kryvyi Torets station as they take part in a rail blockade that has halted coal supplies in the village of Shcherbivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine, February 14, 2017. Picture taken February 14, 2017
© REUTERS / KONSTANTIN CHERNICHKIN
Activists warm themselves at a fire in a camp at Kryvyi Torets station as they take part in a rail blockade that has halted coal supplies in the village of Shcherbivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine, February 14, 2017. Picture taken February 14, 2017

In the anti-Russia project, there is no place either for a sovereign Ukraine or for the political forces that are trying to defend its real independence. Those who talk about reconciliation in Ukrainian society, about dialogue, about finding a way out of the current impasse are labelled as “pro-Russian” agents.

Again, for many people in Ukraine, the anti-Russia project is simply unacceptable. And there are millions of such people. But they are not allowed to raise their heads. They have had their legal opportunity to defend their point of view in fact taken away from them. They are intimidated, driven underground. Not only are they persecuted for their convictions, for the spoken word, for the open expression of their position, but they are also killed. Murderers, as a rule, go unpunished.

Today, the “right” patriot of Ukraine is only the one who hates Russia. Moreover, the entire Ukrainian statehood, as we understand it, is proposed to be further built exclusively on this idea. Hate and anger, as world history has repeatedly proved this, are a very shaky foundation for sovereignty, fraught with many serious risks and dire consequences.

All the subterfuges associated with the anti-Russia project are clear to us. And we will never allow our historical territories and people close to us living there to be used against Russia. And to those who will undertake such an attempt, I would like to say that this way they will destroy their own country.

Opposition supporters on Maidan Square in Kiev where clashes began between protesters and the police. (File)
© SPUTNIK / ANDREY STENIN
Opposition supporters on Maidan Square in Kiev where clashes began between protesters and the police. (File)

The incumbent authorities in Ukraine like to refer to Western experience, seeing it as a model to follow. Just have a look at how Austria and Germany, the USA and Canada live next to each other. Close in ethnic composition, culture, in fact sharing one language, they remain sovereign states with their own interests, with their own foreign policy. But this does not prevent them from the closest integration or allied relations. They have very conditional, transparent borders. And when crossing them the citizens feel at home. They create families, study, work, do business. Incidentally, so do millions of those born in Ukraine who now live in Russia. We see them as our own close people.

Russia is open to dialogue with Ukraine and ready to discuss the most complex issues. But it is important for us to understand that our partner is defending its national interests but not serving someone else’s, and is not a tool in someone else’s hands to fight against us.

We respect the Ukrainian language and traditions. We respect Ukrainians’ desire to see their country free, safe and prosperous.

I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia. Our spiritual, human and civilizational ties formed for centuries and have their origins in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories.

Our kinship has been transmitted from generation to generation. It is in the hearts and the memory of people living in modern Russia and Ukraine, in the blood ties that unite millions of our families. Together we have always been and will be many times stronger and more successful. For we are one people.

Today, these words may be perceived by some people with hostility. They can be interpreted in many possible ways. Yet, many people will hear me. And I will say one thing – Russia has never been and will never be “anti-Ukraine”. And what Ukraine will be – it is up to its citizens to decide.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Putin Says NATO Keeps Building Up Military Near Russia’s Borders and Continues to Reject Dialogue
worker | June 23, 2021 | 8:31 pm | Vladimir Putin | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/world/202106231083215660-putin-says-nato-keeps-building-up-its-military-potential-close-to-russian-borders-rejects-dialogue/

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In an interview to NBC last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin described NATO as a relic of the Cold War-era, adding that he was not sure why it still existed.

Russia is concerned about the build-up of NATO’s military infrastructure near its borders, as well as the fact that the alliance is reluctant to constructively consider proposals to de-escalate tensions, thus reducing the risk of unpredictable incidents, President Vladimir Putin said, addressing the ninth Moscow Conference on International Security on Wednesday.

“We expect that common sense and the desire to develop constructive relations with us will eventually prevail,” Putin added.

In a statement echoing Putin’s remarks, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the participants of the meeting that the alliance was also considering routes to quickly transfer troops to the borders of the union state of Russia and Belarus.

Shoigu cited the Defender Europe drills, during which offensive operations on NATO’s eastern flank were practised, as an example.

He also stressed that the recent NATO summit in Brussels confirmed that the bloc is being transformed into a global military and political alliance, aimed at containing Russia and China.

“The decisions taken at the summit to increase the military spending of the member states and to boost the potential of nuclear deterrence will consolidate the military confrontation in Europe for years,” Shoigu told the conference.

Shoigu expressed the belief that the formal dialogue that Brussels proposes to continue within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council does not reduce tensions in bilateral relations, especially given that some European countries are interested in escalating the conflict.

During his interview to NBC last week, Putin was asked a question about Russia’s troop movements near the Ukrainian border. He responded saying that Russia carries out its military exercises on its own soil, whereas NATO routinely conducts manoeuvres near the Russian border.

 

The president wondered what the alliance’s reaction would be if Russian troops were sent into the direct proximity of NATO countries’ borders. 

He also called NATO a relic of the Cold War-era, adding that he was not “sure why it still continues to exist”.

Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern regarding an increased NATO military presence in Europe, including the alliance’s ongoing eastward expansion.

The Kremlin has also emphasised that Russia poses no threat to other nations, but that it will not ignore actions that jeopardise its national interests.

Putin Believes Willingness to Compromise Contributes to Strengthening Strategic Stability

During the ninth Moscow Conference on International Security on Wednesday, Putin also expressed the belief that political will and willingness to compromise can contribute to strengthening strategic stability.

“Earlier, Russia presented proposals to develop a new security formula, which should take into account all factors that have an influence on strategic stability in interconnection. We are convinced that political will and willingness to compromise can yield a positive result.”

Putin cited the Russian-US agreement to extend the New START nuclear arms reduction to 2026 as a great example.

New Global Rules Should Be Formed Under UN Auspices to Avoid Chaos

Preventing a new world war is the key task of the United Nations, any new rules of the game should be formed under the UN’s auspices in order to avoid chaos and unpredictability, Putin said.

“Since the moment of its creation, the UN has been and remains the foundation of the system of international relations. The main task of this reputable and universally acknowledged organisation is to prevent a global conflict, a new world war. Any new rules of the game should be formed under the UN auspices, as other options would lead to chaos and unpredictability.”

Russia to Further Contribute to De-escalating Regional Conflicts

Russia never loses sight of its responsibility to ensure the security of neighbouring countries and intends to further contribute to de-escalating regional conflicts, Putin pledged.

“Russia never forgets about the responsibility it bears for the security and prosperity of neighbouring countries, with which we are bound by indissoluble historical, cultural and personal ties. We are committed to further contribute to de-escalating regional conflicts, and strengthening peace and stability on our continent,” he said.

Putin added that the settlement of regional conflicts, which Russia is actively promoting, is an important aspect of ensuring global security.

The president stressed that Russia never imposes its will on other nations, and it is ready to engage in solving global and regional problems on an equal footing through the use of political and diplomatic methods.

“Unfortunately, the turbulence of geopolitical processes is still growing even despite some positive signals. The erosion of international law continues. Attempts to push one’s interests through the use of force and to strengthen one’s security at the expense of others never cease,” Putin added.

The president emphasised that the conference centres around the most important issues on the modern military and political agenda.

“The strengthening of global security and sustainable development of our civilisation depend on the solution of this problem, on the effective search for joint responses to common challenges,” Putin added.

Putin rebukes media for negative portrayal of Biden, says US president is actually ‘collected, professional & skillful’
worker | June 21, 2021 | 7:54 pm | Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/russia/526858-putin-media-biden-portrayal/

Putin rebukes media for negative portrayal of Biden, says US president is actually ‘collected, professional & skillful’

Putin rebukes media for negative portrayal of Biden, says US president is actually ‘collected, professional & skillful'
The media image of US President Joe Biden has “nothing to do with reality,” with the American leader being a complete “professional.” That’s according to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, speaking a day after the two met.

Speaking at an online conference with high school graduates, Putin complimented Biden as skillful, lively, and thoroughly knowledgeable about all subject matters, noting that he is focused on what he wants to achieve.

“The image of President Biden which the Russian and even American media paint has nothing to do with reality,” Putin explained. “Biden is a professional. You have to work with him very carefully so as not to miss anything. I can assure you, he doesn’t miss a thing.”

In recent times, Russian media has presented Biden as too old for the job, with some pointing at his verbal gaffes and occasional falls and trips.

“He’s collected. He understands what he wants to achieve. And he does it very skillfully. You can feel it right away,” he said.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘I hope our meeting will be productive’: Putin & Biden share handshake, photo-op and optimistic words before high-stakes summitPutin’s positive comments come after Biden was generally complimentary of the Russian president, noting that he believes there is a “genuine prospect to significantly improve relations between our two countries.”

The two leaders met on Wednesday in the Swiss city of Geneva, in what was their first meeting since Biden’s January inauguration. The summit was held at Villa La Grange, a historic 18th-century villa with a beautiful view of Lake Geneva. Before the start of discussions, Putin thanked his American counterpart for taking the initiative to arrange a meeting, underscoring that “Russia and US relations have a lot of issues accumulated.”

Following the encounter, the two leaders adopted a joint statement on strategic stability and agreed on their ambassadors’ return and continued consultations on the future of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START III).

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Biden-Putin meeting shows Russia-US relations are set for a return to the Cold War-era. Strangely, that might be an improvement
worker | June 21, 2021 | 7:36 pm | Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/russia/526832-geneva-summit-cold-era-improvemernt/

Biden-Putin meeting shows Russia-US relations are set for a return to the Cold War-era. Strangely, that might be an improvement

Biden-Putin meeting shows Russia-US relations are set for a return to the Cold War-era. Strangely, that might be an improvement
The long-anticipated summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, was, a total, if modest, success. Aside from the hype, it achieved its goals of cooling tensions after years of circus antics.

While the fears were originally bigger than the hopes, the worst possible outcomes failed to materialize, and the summit served its purpose of getting Moscow and Washington to sit down and do business. Both leaders signed up to a well-polished joint statement that denounced nuclear war and signaled their determination to formulate new principles underpinning strategic stability and cybersecurity.

What’s more, their respective ambassadors are finally returning to their posts – a positive sign, if even only a symbolic gesture of goodwill. In reality, no matter how hard foreign diplomatic missions work or how many people they employ, they can rarely if ever tip the scale when there is no political will at the top.

Judging by what the presidents said though, they covered a lot of ground in the brief, yet rather substantive, meeting. Now, they may well end up striking a deal or two – like the spy swaps in the good old days of the Soviet Union – but any such arrangement would be an isolated case with no lasting effect on bilateral relations.

ALSO ON RT.COMThe Biden-Putin summit is a chance to strike a blow for peace & stability – if Washington can leave domestic politics at the doorIn general, the talks in Geneva left a positive impression because they resembled classic summit meetings. The exchanges were intensive and serious, with an understanding of real constraints, and without the ideological prejudice that we’ve all become used to over the last couple of decades. The drumbeat of rhetoric in the distance is a necessary backdrop, but the top figures do not really focus on the noise.

The outcome of the summit does not guarantee anything will change in the long term, as improving relations alone was simply not on the agenda. However, potentially introducing clear rules into our ongoing game of confrontation to control our respective nuclear capabilities would make a difference, not so much bilaterally but globally.

The United States is not the main global concern for Russia, and nor is Moscow the chief problem for Washington – unlike in the previous Cold War. However, the nature of their relationship impacts each other’s ties with more significant partners. The Geneva summit is a chance for both nations to reconsider the way they work internationally.

Biden’s foreign policy is actually quite straightforward. Apparently, it will prioritize efforts to recreate the political alliance of ‘the West’ like it was in the Cold War, to contain and slow down China, and to engage in a limited way in regional conflicts where the US can, if possible, rely on local partners, rather than play the lead itself. Replacing the ‘global leadership’ slogan with ‘America’s return’ is a smart move that gives Washington much more flexibility than before since there is no clear idea in what capacity it is back in the global arena.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘A good day for Russia’: Former US President Trump blasts successor Biden after Putin summit, citing waivers for Nord Stream-2Russia’s priorities are also changing, and the shift is obvious to unbiased minds, hard as they are to come by in the West. The movement is a recent trend and it is unclear what its goals will end up looking like. While the US is betting on the old strategy of consolidating the West against a deliberately constructed authoritarian threat, Russia has to double-check its options and reconsider the institutions and tools for use in its foreign policy.

In the previous years and even decades, Moscow has pushed for new institutions that would help establish the multipolar world. This concept has defined political and diplomatic practice since the mid-1990s, and it marked Russia’s defensive response to the decline of its international status after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Multipolarity implied opposing hegemony but it did not create a clear slot for Russia to occupy in the new world order.

When international pluralism ultimately emerged, it confused things even further. With the new powerhouses of varying clout, the global landscape evolved rather quickly, turning foreign policy into rocket science. The globalization crisis affected both old and new institutions and arrangements, including those that were created by Russia from the nineties to the mid-2010s. Today, amid the drive toward re-nationalization of world affairs catalyzed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of intergovernmental organizations is up in the air, with countries eyeing the advantages of flying solo.

Russia and the US are both facing the same challenge. They have to recalibrate their objectives and approaches to match the new global realities. Ironically, going back to a classic Cold War relationship seems to be more helpful for this task. Both sides seem to be familiar with this time-tested practice, and the format may well suit them best. This is the key takeaway from the Geneva summit.

ALSO ON RT.COMStill ‘no reason’ to remove US from Russia’s list of ‘unfriendly countries’, despite cordial Putin-Biden summit, says KremlinHowever, the catch is that today’s political cycles are measured not in decades but years, if not even months. Make no mistake, any arrangements that create the kind of strategic stability of the Cold War will be unlikely to last as long the second time around.

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Biden vs. Vlad the Impaler
worker | June 15, 2021 | 7:42 pm | Joe Biden, Russia, Struggle for Peace, Vladimir Putin | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/202106141083147091-biden-vs-vlad-the-impaler/

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Both sides acknowledge that relations between the United States and Russia are at an abject low point. And both sides have said they want to make relations better. But who is actually making a positive effort to reduce tensions and give peace a chance?

It should be obvious that the Russian side is the only party that is acting responsibly and with a generous spirit of trying to improve bilateral relations.

President Vladimir Putin says he hopes to open personal communications with American counterpart Joe Biden when they meet for their summit in Geneva on Wednesday. The Russian leader has played down expectations of a breakthrough, but nevertheless, his stated aspiration is for a productive detente.

There is little to no reciprocation of benign spirit from the American side. Biden and his aides may say the US does not want a conflict with Russia. But apart from that rhetorical concession, the Americans are pushing aggression and making the Geneva meeting sound like a showdown.

The unwillingness of the US president to hold a joint press conference with Putin following their private discussions is a telling sign of the obnoxious American attitude.

There are two reasons why Biden doesn’t want to appear side by side with Putin in front of the world.

The first is he would not be able to handle Putin’s intelligent arguments and criticism of American policy. Joe Biden’s mental faculties are in serious doubt following well-publicized gaffes and missteps of forgetting names and incoherent speech. Not meaning to sound cruel, but Putin would demolish Biden in a public discussion.

Biden and the entire American political establishment constantly accuse Putin and Russia of malign conduct, everything from being a “killer” to interfering in elections, cyberattacks and threatening the national security of the US and its allies.

The depiction is a fantasy based on Russophobia and bigoted prejudice. As Putin pointed out in a recent US media interview: there is no evidence ever presented to back up these wild pejorative claims. It is all unsubstantiated, rabid nonsense.

If Putin was on the same public platform as Biden, we can be sure that the veil of lies would be torn from the American facade of acting tough and sanctimonious. Biden would be left quivering and mumbling like an impotent idiot. Indeed, any American politician would be since they are all brainwashed idiots bloated from their own propaganda.

Thus, the world would see in a wonderful moment just how ridiculously naked the American emperor is and all his NATO minions are.

The second reason for why Biden could not abide standing alongside Putin is that that image confounds the American propaganda of demonizing “Vlad the Impaler”. Any appearance of a smiling Putin in a normal friendly setting with Biden would undermine the narrative of Putin-the-bogeyman.

That’s why the meeting has to be held in private and afterward the Americans can spin some account of the talks to make themselves sound morally superior by claiming to have brought up concerns about  “human rights” and “malign behavior”. We can be sure if Biden dares to act self-righteous, Putin will deftly slam the absurd hypocrisy.

But it’s also vital for the American side to portray the encounter as a showdown between a good guy and a bad guy. The charade only works if kept in private.

At least in the past, Ronald Reagan was photographed having convivial fireside talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev when they met in Geneva in 1985 and produced a landmark arms control treaty. To his credit, too, Donald Trump held a joint press conference with Putin when the pair met in Helsinki in 2018 and there was no acrimony.

 

But Biden, like most American politicians and media, is full of stupid antipathy towards Putin and the Kremlin. He warned menacingly last week he’s going to tell Putin “what he knows”. Biden says the Russian leader “needs to change his behavior” if there is to be any improvement in relations. 

It’s going to be very difficult to engage in productive dialogue when the American mindset is so indoctrinated with false propaganda.

Some observers may wonder is there any point in Putin meeting Biden under those circumstances? After all, it was Biden who invited Putin to meet him.

The willingness of the Russian side to engage – in spite of the American animosity – is a clear sign of political maturity and generosity to try to create a more peaceful world. The onus is on the Americans to change their behavior and stop malign conduct. That’s the real challenge.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

NATO Drills, Cyberattacks, & Navalny: Highlights of Putin’s NBC Interview Ahead of Summit With Biden
worker | June 14, 2021 | 9:01 pm | China, Vladimir Putin | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/world/202106141083144978-putin-dismisses-absurd-claims-of-russias-interference-in-cyberattacks-against-us-in-nbc-interview/

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A series of high-profile cyberattacks have hit US facilities over the past few months, including a ransomware attack against a major gas pipeline and a meat-producing giant. Washington has accused hackers operating in Russia as being behind both attacks.

US claims of Russian hackers or the Russian government of being behind cyberattacks in the United States are absurd, Russian President Vladimir Putin told NBC in a wide-ranging interview on Monday.

“We have been accused of all kinds of things”, Putin said. “Election interference, cyberattacks, and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof. Just unfounded accusations”.

The Russian president reiterated Moscow’s calls to cooperate in the fight against cybercrime, raising hope that the two sides “will be able to set up this process”.

He expressed concern that the United States, being a high-tech country, has the capability and intent to target Russia.

“The US is a high-tech country, NATO has declared cyberspace an area of combat, it means they are planning something, they are preparing something. So, obviously, this cannot but worry us. I’m not afraid, but I bear in mind that it is a possibility”, he told NBC.

A major US fuel transporting facility Colonial Pipeline was targeted by a ransomware attack on 7 May, which triggered a gas outage crisis across a handful of US states. The attack was attributed to an unknown group of allegedly Russian-speaking hackers. However, President Joe Biden said on several occasions that there was no evidence Russia was involved.

Just weeks later, a cyberattack on an international company and the world’s largest meat producer, JBS Foods, led to the temporary closure of all of its beef factories in the United States. The US administration said it believes some of the members of the hacker groups reside in Russia.

Navalny’s ‘Poisoning’

Answering interviewer Keir Simmons’ question about Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin said Russia was not in the habit of assassinating people, denying ordering him killed.

When the NBC journalist suggested that Navalny was not just any prisoner, the Russian president said: “He will not be treated any worse than anybody else”.

In January, Navalny returned to Moscow from Berlin after receiving medical treatment for an alleged poisoning. The activist was arrested upon arrival and referred to a court, which in February rescinded his suspended sentence in the 2014 Yves Rocher fraud case over multiple probation breaches and replaced it with a 3.5-year term behind bars. A Moscow city court reinstated the ruling but reduced the sentence to 2.5 years.

The Russian president stated that he would consider a prisoner exchange with the United States as there are more Russians in US prisons than Americans in Russian jails.

“I know we have certain US citizens who are in prison after [being] convicted. But if one considers the number of Russian Federation citizens who are in US prisons than these numbers don’t even compare”, he said.

He said that US prison administration ignored health problems of former Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is serving a 20-year sentence in the United States.

“He has major health issues, but the prison administration is not paying attention to this. You have mentioned that your citizen has coronavirus [Trevor Reed], but nobody’s paying attention to the health issues of our citizen [Yaroshenko]”, Putin said.

Yaroshenko was arrested in Liberia in 2010 on suspicion of drug trafficking. He was extradited to the US and sentenced to 20 years in prison a year later, allegedly for taking part in a conspiracy to smuggle a large amount of drugs into the country. Yaroshenko has denied all charges.

NATO Activities Near Russia’s Borders

In response to the interviewer’s question about Russia’s troop movements near the Ukrainian border, Putin hit back saying that the nation carries out its military exercises on its own soil, whereas NATO routinely conducts manoeuvres near the Russian border.

“Imagine if we sent our troops into direct proximity to your borders”, Putin said. “What would have been your response?”

Putin dubbed NATO a relic of the Cold War-era, adding he is not “sure why it still continues to exist”.

Moscow, has repeatedly expressed concern regarding an increased NATO military presence in Europe, including the Alliance’s ongoing eastward expansion.

The Kremlin has also underscored that Russia poses no threat to other nations, but it will not ignore actions that endanger its national interests.

Russia-US Space Cooperation Still On

Putin denied that Russia was planning to end its cooperation with the United States in space, insisting that one of the last remaining areas of common interest between the two countries was still on despite threats to the contract from his space agency chief.

“I think you just misunderstood”, Putin said when asked about reports that Moscow planned to withdraw from the International Space Station project. “We are interested in continuing work with the US in this direction, and we will continue to do so if our US partners don’t refuse to do that”.

Russia is open to cooperation with other countries in space but strongly opposes militarisation in this area, President Vladimir Putin said.

“We don’t rule out cooperation with many world nations in space. But probably everybody knows very well our position in terms that we are categorically against space militarisation altogether”, Putin said.

Putin said Moscow believes that space should be free from any and all kinds of weapons located in near-Earth orbits.

“We don’t have these kinds of plans or any plans, especially concerning the transfer of technology of the level that you have just described”, the Russian president added.

Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin said last week that Russia might revise its decision to withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS) and build its own orbital station if the United States lifts sanctions.

Sino-Russian Relations

The Russian president told NBC that he sees attempts to destroy the relationship between Russia and China, who are bonded by what he described as a “strategic partnership”.

“I will tell you completely honestly … We can see attempts at destroying the relationship between Russia and China. We can see that those attempts are being made in practical policies. We are pleased with the level of our relationship which as I said is unprecedentedly high as it has developed over the last few decades. And we cherish it. Just like our Chinese friends cherish it”, he said.

He added that he did not see any threats coming from Russia’s neighbour China.

“We do not believe that China is a threat to us. That’s one. China is a friendly nation. It has not declared us an enemy, as the United States has done”, he said when asked whether he was concerned about China’s militarisation.

Putin said Russia had developed an unprecedented strategic partnership with China across a wide range of areas, from politics and economy to the defense industry.

Asked whether Russia’s decision to quit the ISS space station project meant it was splitting off from the US space programme and moving forward with China, Putin said that Moscow was ready to work together with both Washington and Beijing.

“We will continue to do so if our US partners don’t refuse to do that. It doesn’t mean that we need to work exclusively with the US. We have been working and will continue to work with China, which applies to all kinds of programmes, including exploring deep space”, he said.

On Taiwan, which China considers its territory, Putin said that he had no knowledge of China’s purported plans to make a military move on the island nation. He declined to speculate what Russia would do if China invaded Taiwan, saying there was no “could be” and “would be” in politics.

Ryanair Incident

It was the Ryanair pilot’s decision to land the plane in Belarus, and even if he was forced to do so by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, it was only because the latter was inspired by the US’ 2013 grounding of the Bolivian president’s plane, Putin remarked.

“The pilot made a decision to land in Minsk. That is all. Why should I not believe him? Ask the pilot. It’s the simplest thing. Ask the chief pilot. Ask the commander of the aircraft. Did you ask him if was he forced to land? Because I have not heard or seen an interview with the commander of the aircraft that landed in Minsk. Why not ask him? … Everybody accuses Lukashenko, but the pilot hasn’t been asked”, Putin said.

He then recalled a similar situation when the US administration forced the Bolivian president’s plane to land in Vienna.

“Air Force One, a presidential plane, was forced to land. The President was taken out of the aircraft. They searched the plane. And you don’t even recall that. Do you think it was normal, that was good, but what Lukashenko did was bad? Look, let us speak the same language and let us use the same concepts. If, well, Lukashenko is a gangster, how about the situation with the Bolivian President? … Nobody is bringing that up”, Putin said.

In May, a Ryanair airpplane traveling from Greece to Lithuania made an emergency landing in Minsk over a bomb threat, which turned out to be fake. Two of its passengers, Roman Protasevich, the founder of a Telegram channel that Belarus has designated as extremist, and his girlfriend, Russian national Sofia Sapega, were detained during the stopover.

Putin’s expansive interview with NBC comes just mere days before the Russian president is expected to sit down for talks with his US counterpart Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland.

‘Red Lines,’ Coup Attempts and Zircon Missiles: Highlights of Putin’s Address to Federal Assembly
worker | April 25, 2021 | 8:53 pm | Russia, Vladimir Putin | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/russia/202104211082692692-red-lines-coup-attempts-coexistence-key-takeaways-from-putins-address-to-the-federal-assembly/

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The president’s annual address, given to members of the two houses of Russia’s parliament, plus members of the cabinet, regional governors, and various distinguished guests, outlines his views on the state of the nation, and establishes guidelines for the country’s foreign and domestic policy in the year to come.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his annual address to Russian lawmakers and officials on Wednesday, with this year’s speech lasting 78 minutes, and dedicated to a broad range of issues including foreign and defence policy, the economy and social policy, the coronavirus and climate change.

Sputnik has collected the speech’s highlights. A complete readout of the address can be found here.

On Foreign and Defence Policy

  • Commenting on the series of “unfriendly actions” he said have been taken against Russia, Putin said that while Russia has so far acted with “utter restraint.” He added, however, that “if someone perceives our goodwill as indifference or weakness, and is prepared to completely burn, or even blow up…bridges, Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, speedy and tough,” he warned.
  • Without naming any country specifically, Putin denounced nations attempting to impose “unlawful, politically motivated economic sanctions” and making “crude attempts to enforce their will on others.”
  • Comparing countries seeking to bully and intimidate Russia to the tiger Shere Khan and the jackal Tabaqui – characters from Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel “The Jungle Book” – Putin warned adversaries not to cross Russia’s “red lines,” saying these lines would be determined by Moscow in each specific instance. “Those staging any provocations that threaten core interests of our security will regret it like nothing before,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at his annual address to Russian lawmakers. 21 April 2021.
© SPUTNIK / MIKHAIL METZEL
Russian President Vladimir Putin at his annual address to Russian lawmakers. 21 April 2021.
  • Mentioning the recently uncovered foreign-backed plot to assassinate Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and members of his family and to stage a coup in Belarus, Putin said this plot “crossed all boundaries” of legitimate intercourse between nations. Commenting on the plot’s details – including plans to shut down the Minsk power grid and shut down the city’s infrastructure and communications, Putin suggested that “apparently, it’s not for no reason that our Western colleagues have stubbornly rejected numerous proposals by the Russian side to establish an international dialogue in the field of information and cybersecurity.”
  • Pointing to Moscow’s ongoing work to modernise its nuclear arsenal and reporting that the share of modern weapons systems in the country’s nuclear triad would exceed 88 percent by the end of 2021, Putin invited other nations to discuss with Russia questions related to strategic stability. “The purpose of such talks may be the creation of an environment of conflict-free coexistence on the basis of the equalisation of security, which would encompass not only traditional strategic weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines, but also – and I would like to emphasise this point: all offensive and defensive systems capable of carrying out strategic tasks, regardless of their armament,” he said.
  • On the subject of strategic defence, Putin revealed that the first full regiment of Russia’s new Sarmat ICBM would come online by 2022, while Zircon hypersonic missiles would be put on alert in the near future. Overall, the share of modern equipment in the Russian military is expected to exceed 75 percent by 2024, according to Putin.
Test of the Zircon hypersonic missile
© PHOTO : RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY
Test of the Zircon hypersonic missile

Domestic Issues: Healthcare, Social Policy, Economy, Environment

  • Putin devoted considerable attention and time to the coronavirus pandemic in the first half of his speech, praising Russians for joining together to combat the disease, and reserving admiration for Russia’s scientists for their work to create three different Covid vaccines which he encouraged people to use. Suggesting that the global healthcare system was on the threshold of a “real revolution,” the president said that the pandemic had “strongly accelerated” new techniques and technologies like telemedicine, the use of AI, new approaches to diagnostics, surgery, and rehabilitation. “Our task is to put such technologies at the service of the citizens of our country. It is on the new technological basis that we need to build the entire healthcare system,” he said.
  • Commenting on Russia’s demographic situation, and the recently reported decline of the population by over 700,000 people over the past three years, Putin said that “preservation of people” was the government’s “top national priority,” and that its national strategy was meant to “achieve sustainable population growth, and ensure that average life expectancy in Russia will reach 78 by 2030,” up from its current average of 72.5 years, including 65.1 years for men.
Woman watches live speech of President Putin's speech to the Federal Assembly. Wednesday, 21 April, 2021.
© SPUTNIK / СЕРГЕЙ ПЯТАКОВ
Woman watches live speech of President Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly. Wednesday, 21 April, 2021.
  • On the subject of social welfare, Putin mentioned a new programme which will pay single parents a new additional monthly stipend averaging 5,650 rubles (equivalent to about $74), complementing payments made to all parents, which have also been increased. The president praised what he said were “unprecedented measures” taken by the government to support the economy during the pandemic, saying some five million jobs had been saved through the provision of soft loans and tax breaks to business. Noting that the corporate sector was on track to registering an all-time record in profits in 2021, Putin said the government would work to promote additional private investment to create new jobs.
  • Putin also indicated that the state would be soon be simplifying conditions for companies engaged in non-commodity exports through the easing of currency control restrictions. On the subject of taxes, he said that the taxation system was in need of fine-tuning to encourage companies to invest profits in their industries.
Kamaz factory in Tatarstan, Russia.
© SPUTNIK / MAKSIM BOGODVID
Kamaz factory in Tatarstan, Russia.
  • The president also devoted attention to the environment, promising that Russia would do its part in fighting climate change, including by engaging in the cleanup of environmental damage and the reclamation of land. Emphasising that Russia is warming at a rate 2.5 times above the world average, Putin set a goal for Russia to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions to levels below the European Union over the next thirty years, notwithstanding challenges, such as geography and Russia’s northern climate. “We have to adapt our agricultural sector, industrial complex, public services and infrastructure, to create a CO2 recycling industry, aim for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through tough control and monitoring,” he said. “I am absolutely certain that this goal is achievable, given our scientific and technological potential,” he added.
  • Russia is a major energy-producing nation, with its oil reserves expected to last at least several more decades. Accounting for changing circumstances, Putin suggested that the country needs “new comprehensive approaches to energy, including new solutions in nuclear power generations, in such prospective areas as hydrogen energy and energy storage.”