Clint Ehrlich: SITREP for Day 4 of Ukraine War

This is a situation report from yesterday from Clint Ehrlich. I have found him to be a good source of information. You can follow him on Twitter. – Natylie

Day 4- SITREP: The gulf between popular perception and strategic reality continues to grow in Ukraine.

If you only read Western media, you would think the Russian military was on the verge of defeat.

In reality, they have a clear path to victory.Satellite imagery indicates that a massive Russian armored column, with +800 vehicles, is approaching Kiev from the north.

At the same time, Russian forces in the East are working to link up and encircle a large fraction of the Ukrainian military. 

What we’re witnessing is a funhouse mirror version of the Gulf War.

During that conflict, images of smart bombing broadcast into American homes highlighted U.S. dominance.

Today, Twitter images of Ukrainian tactical success are creating a false narrative of Russian defeat.

The single least appreciated fact about the current conflict is that Russia has only committed 1/2 to 2/3 of the forces it built up around Ukraine’s borders.

It also has the ability to draw Belarus into the war, whose armored divisions would represent a potent “fourth wave.”

What Russia *has* suffered is a massive defeat in information warfare.

The narrative of Ukrainian success is having real consequences in terms of the willingness of foreign powers to toughen sanctions and provide military aid.

We have already seen the Ruble fall to its lowest exchange rate in history (100:1) vs. the Dollar.

This is not quite enough to destabilize the Russian economy – in the sense of causing internal political chaos – but it’s enough that ordinary Russians are scared.

Before the war, Western polling showed that Russians favored military intervention in Ukraine to prevent NATO membership by a 2:1 margin.

But it’s clear that they did not appreciate that Russia would become a global pariah state. I don’t believe the war enjoys that support now.

Today, I’m worried that Western nations may overplay their hand in trying to remove Putin.

They have drawn blood in their attempts to harm Russia’s economy, and they will seek to go further in driving the Russian people to rise up and demand an end to the war.

There are two scenarios that could endanger the world.

First, if the West attempts to take direct action against Putin – e.g., foreign intelligence agencies trying to stage a “Maidan on Red Square” – the Kremlin may consider that an attack on the existence of the Russian state.

Critically, Russia has reserved the right to use nuclear weapons in response to attacks that threaten the existence of the state.

With Putin already putting nuclear forces on high alert, and Western powers now seeking to remove him, we have entered a dangerous new era.

Second, if the West *succeeds* in ousting Putin, that could be even more dangerous.

The last thing the world needs is a civil war inside a country with thousands of nuclear weapons.

But that is exactly what we could get if we try to destabilize the Russian state.

I am not predicting that Putin will lose power in the foreseeable future.

But in a week, we have gone from that being *unthinkable* to it instead being a remote possibility.

His legacy has already been permanently altered. His popular support inside Russia is not infinite.

Russia today presents a paradox.

On paper, it is a state with a GDP the size of Spain, whose economy is vulnerable to disruption by the West.

But its *military technological capabilities* exceed ours on many axes.

For example, Russia fields the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“Dagger”) missile.

It is three times the size of a Tomahawk, and 13 times faster. It has the range to annihilate any U.S. carrier strike group at Mach 10.

Technology like that is why poking Russia is scary.

By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has demonstrated a willingness to use force against his neighbors.

But it’s unlikely he would actually seek a confrontation with NATO.

The best way to bring about that kind of war is to pursue his removal from power, as many now want to.

I mentioned GDP above, since it’s the point Western critics often echo.

But PPP is the more accurate metric for Russia’s military capabilities, since most of its expenses are Ruble denominated.

Its PPP is more than twice that of Spain and just under Germany.An even better metric is CINC – Composite Index of National Capability.

This is a metric that factors a state’s fraction of global demographic, economic, and military power.

It ranks Russia as the #5 power on Earth, and China as #1. Not a perfect indicator, but informative.Update: I can’t vouch for this journalist, but his information is logical. Highly plausible Europeans will fly these planes while pretending they’re piloted by the Ukrainian Air Force.

For now, I’ll be adding more updates on the Russian war in Ukraine here.

First, there’s been a lot of attention on Belarus revoking its status as a nuclear-weapons-free state.

This opens the door for Russia to deploy nukes to its territory. Is this significant? Yes and no.

A naive person looking at a map would think that Belarus’ decision would push Russian nukes far deeper into Western Europe.

In reality, Russia is already likely storing nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, between Poland and Lithuania.

There has also been a lot of attention paid to the E.U. banning transactions with Russia’s Central Bank.

However, there is a big loophole: Transactions will still be processed when necessary to preserve the “stability” of the Union or its members.

Ultimate effect = Unclear.There is video that seems to show Russian forces attacking Kiev.

However, I advise remaining skeptical. We’ve heard reports like this before that did not pan out.

If it were a full assault, I would expect much more media to already have appeared.

Scott Ritter: Putin’s Nuclear Threat

The disconnect between the Western and Russian narratives in the current conflict could prove fatal to the world, writes Scott Ritter.

By Scott Ritter, Consortium News, 2/27/22

Vladimir Putin is a madman. He’s lost it. At least that is what the leaders of the West would like you to believe. According to their narrative, Putin — isolated, alone, confused, and angry at the unfolding military disaster Russia was undergoing in Ukraine — lashed out, ostensibly threatening the entire world with nuclear annihilation.

In a meeting with his top generals on Sunday, the beleaguered Russian president announced, “I order the defense minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service.”

The reason for this action, Putin noted, centered on the fact that, “Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country” in relation to the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

The “deterrence forces” Putin spoke of refers to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

What made the Russian president’s words resonate even more was that last Thursday, when announcing the commencement of Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, Putin declared that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.” He emphasized that Russia is “one of the most potent nuclear powers and also has a certain edge in a range of state-of-the-art weapons.”

When Putin issued that threatThe Washington Post described it as “empty, a mere baring of fangs.” The Pentagon, involved as it was in its own review of U.S. nuclear posture designed to address threats such as this, seemed non-plussed, with an anonymous official noting that U.S. policy makers “don’t see an increased threat in that regard.”

NATO’s Response

For NATO’s part, the Trans-Atlantic military alliance, which sits at the heart of the current crisis, issued a statement in which it noted that:

“Russia’s actions pose a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security, and they will have geo-strategic consequences. NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the security and defense of all Allies. We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the Alliance, as well as additional maritime assets. We have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies.”

Hidden near the bottom of this statement, however, was a passage which, when examined closely, underpinned the reasoning behind Putin’s nuclear muscle-flexing. “[W]e have held consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty,” the statement noted. “We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defense across the Alliance.”

Under Article 4, members can bring any issue of concern, especially related to the security of a member country, to the table for discussion within the North Atlantic Council. NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland triggered the Article 4 consultation following the Russian incursion into Ukraine. In a statement issued on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expanded on the initial NATO statement, declaring that NATO was committed to protecting and defending all its allies, including Ukraine.

Three things about this statement stood out. First, by invoking Article IV, NATO was positioning itself for potential offensive military action; its previous military interventions against Serbia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2004, and Libya in 2011, were all done under Article IV of the NATO Charter. Seen in this light, the premise that NATO is an exclusively defensive organization, committed to the promise of collective self-defense, is baseless.

Second, while Article V (collective defense) protections only extend to actual NATO members, which Ukraine is not, Article IV allows the umbrella of NATO protection to be extended to those non-NATO members whom the alliance views as an ally, a category Stoltenberg clearly placed Ukraine in.

Finally, Stoltenberg’s anointing of Ukraine as a NATO ally came at the same time he announced the activation and deployment of NATO’s 40,000-strong Response Force, some of which would be deployed to NATO’s eastern flank, abutting Ukraine. The activation of the Response Force is unprecedented in the history of NATO, a fact that underscores the seriousness to which a nation like Russia might attach to the action.

When seen in this light, Putin’s comments last Thursday were measured, sane, and responsible.

What Happens if NATO Convoys or EU Jets Are Hit?

Since the Article IV consultations began, NATO members have begun to supply Ukraine with lethal military aid, with the promise of more in the days and weeks to come. These shipments can only gain access to Ukraine through a ground route that requires transshipment through NATO members, including Romania and Poland. It goes without saying that any vehicle carrying lethal military equipment into a war zone is a legitimate target under international law; this would apply in full to any NATO-affiliated shipment or delivery done by a NATO member on their own volition.

What happens when Russia begins to attack NATO/EU/US/Allied arms deliveries as they arrive on Ukrainian soil? Will NATO, acting under Article IV, create a buffer zone in Ukraine, using the never-before-mobilized Response Force? One naturally follows the other…

The scenario becomes even more dire if the EU acts on its pledge to provide Ukraine with aircraft and pilots to fight the Russians. How would these be deployed to Ukraine? What happens when Russia begins shooting down these aircraft as soon as they enter Ukrainian airspace? Does NATO now create a no-fly zone over western Ukraine?

What happens if a no-fly zone (which many officials in the West are promoting) is combined with the deployment of the Response Force to create a de facto NATO territory in western Ukraine? What if the Ukrainian government establishes itself in the city of Lvov, operating under the protection of this air and ground umbrella?

Russia’s Nuclear Doctrine

In June 2020, Russia released a new document, titled “On Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence,” that outlined the threats and circumstances that could lead to Russia’s use of nuclear weapons. While this document declared that Russia “considers nuclear weapons exclusively as a means of deterrence,” it outlined several scenarios in which Russia would resort to the use of nuclear weapons if deterrence failed.

While the Russian nuclear policy document did not call for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons during conventional conflicts, it did declare that “in the event of a military conflict, this Policy provides for the prevention of an escalation of military actions and their termination on conditions that are acceptable for the Russian Federation and/or its allies.”

In short, Russia might threaten to use nuclear weapons to deter “aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.”

In defining Russia’s national security concerns to both the U.S. and NATO last December, Putin was crystal clear about where he stood when it came to Ukrainian membership in NATO. In a pair of draft treaty documents, Russia demanded that NATO provide written guarantees that it would halt its expansion and assure Russia that neither Ukraine nor Georgia ever be offered membership into the alliance.

In a speech delivered after Russia’s demands were delivered, Putin declared that if the U.S. and its allies continue their “obviously aggressive stance,” Russia would take “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures,” adding that it has “every right to do so.”

In short, Putin made it clear that, when it came to the issue of Ukrainian membership in NATO, the stationing of U.S. missiles in Poland and Romania and NATO deployments in Eastern Europe, Russia felt that its very existence was being threatened. 

The Disconnect

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, when seen from the perspective of Russia and its leadership, was the result of a lengthy encroachment by NATO on the legitimate national security interests of the Russian state and people. The West, however, has interpreted the military incursion as little more than the irrational action of an angry, isolated dictator desperately seeking relevance in a world slipping out of his control.

The disconnect between these two narratives could prove fatal to the world. By downplaying the threat Russia perceives, both from an expanding NATO and the provision of lethal military assistance to Ukraine while Russia is engaged in military operations it deems critical to its national security, the U.S. and NATO run the risk of failing to comprehend the deadly seriousness of Putin’s instructions to his military leaders regarding the elevation of the level of readiness on the part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

Far from reflecting the irrational whim of a desperate man, Putin’s orders reflected the logical extension of a concerted Russian national security posture years in the making, where the geopolitical opposition to NATO expansion into Ukraine was married with strategic nuclear posture. Every statement Putin has made over the course of this crisis has been tied to this policy.

While the U.S. and NATO can debate the legitimacy of the Russian concerns, to dismiss the national security strategy of a nation that has been subjected to detailed bureaucratic vetting as nothing more than the temper tantrum of an out of touch autocrat represents a dangerous disregard of reality, the consequences of which could prove to be fatal to the U.S., NATO, and the world.

President Putin has often complained that the West does not listen to him when he speaks of issues Russia deems to be of critical importance to its national security.

The West is listening now. The question is, is it capable of comprehending the seriousness of the situation?

So far, the answer seems to be no.

Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

The Bell: Everything Has Changed

The Bell is a non-establishment news outlet based in Russia. Below is their summary of what has been happening in Russia since the country began its military intervention in Ukraine. – Natylie

Hello! This week, Russia invaded Ukraine. Like most others in Russia, we doubted President Vladimir Putin would actually take such a momentous step — but he did. It will lead to enormous bloodshed, and have far-reaching political and economic consequences. The military situation in Ukraine is fast-moving and, as we do not have any reporters on the ground, we will focus on developments inside Russia, particularly the economic fallout.

Reaction to war

Publicly, there have been almost no dissenting voices raised against the military operation in Ukraine among the Russian political and business elite, which seems to be acting in lockstep with the president. In a televised meeting Monday of the powerful Security Council, several senior members seemed openly fearful; apparently hesitant and nervous in front of Putin.

The few exceptions include billionaires Mikhail Fridman, Russia’s 11th wealthiest person, and Oleg Deripaska, the country’s 38th wealthiest, who both offered criticism of the invasion Sunday. Fridman, who was born in Ukraine and spends much of his time in London, said in a letter to staff that “war can never be the answer”. More ambiguously, Deripaska wrote on his Telegram channel that “peace is very important”. Yelizaveta Peskova, the daughter of presidential press spokesperson Dmitry Peskov who studied at a university in France, posted a ‘no to war’ message on her Instagram on Friday, although it was quickly deleted.

Dissent has been far more widespread in urban, cultural circles, with many expressions of anger on social media. An online petition against the war was signed by almost a million people, and dozens of professional groups released statements in protest: for example, over 5,000 architects signed a statement condemning the war, as did more than 6,000 doctors and medical staff, and over 500 heads of charities and non-governmental organizations.

Tens of thousands of Russians have taken part in rolling anti-war protests in cities and towns across the country. A total of almost 6,000 people were arrested at such demonstrations in four days since the beginning of the invasion, according to protest-monitoring group OVD-Info (which is designated a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian authorities).

Economic impact

Stock markets felt the brunt of the initial shock. When Putin signed a decree about the formal recognition of the rebel statelets in Eastern Ukraine on Monday, the Moscow Exchange dropped 10.5 percent and the dollar-dominated RTS fell 13.2 percent. And when the Russian invasion began three days later, there was a collapse: the Moscow Exchange crashed 33.3 percent and the RTS fell 38.3 percent. This was the biggest one-day fall on the Russian stock market since their inception, and was similar in scale to some of the biggest falls ever recorded on stock markets worldwide.

The ruble also took a pummeling, reaching almost 90 against the U.S. dollar Thursday, a record low and all the shocking since the price of oil, Russia’s main export, is trending upward and close to $100 a barrel. The currency pared some of its losses the following day, and was trading at about 83 rubles to the U.S. dollar Friday. However, it looked set for more major falls. Expectations grew over the weekend that a run on the ruble was likely when markets opened Monday — and many Russians people spent hours queuing for increasingly hard-to-find foreign currency.

For Russian consumers, it is U.S. sanctions on Russian banks that had the most immediate impact. Those who used sanctioned banks are now no longer able to pay with their bank cards abroad, they cannot access international online platforms, nor use Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Within hours of the invasion, Russia’s Central Bank began taking measures to stabilize stock markets and prop up the currency. And the following day it began helping Russian banks. Gold and currency reserves held by the National Wealth Fund were being used to support the ruble and ensure price stability, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told an emergency government meeting Friday that was devoted to dealing with the consequences of sanctions.

On Sunday night it became evident that the measures are going to be truly extraordinary. A leaked document revealed that the Central Bank has ordered a block on foreign clients’ bids to sell Russian securities. If confirmed, this move would cut off the Russian stock market from the world indefinitely.

Wartime censorship

Coverage of the military action in Ukraine on Russian state-owned TV channels — how a majority of Russians get their news — has downplayed the scale and intensity of the fighting, stressing instead that the military intervention protecting the rebel-held areas of Eastern Ukraine. There were also claims that Russian soldiers were being welcomed as liberators — and little mention of battles raging outside Kyiv and Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv.

At the same time, the Russian authorities have been ramping up pressure on independent media outlets and widely-used social media platforms. Media watchdog Roskomnadzor announced Friday that it would slow the operation of Facebook in response to restrictions imposed by the social network on the accounts of state-owned TV station Zvezda, news agency RIA Novosti and websites Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru. Over the weekend, there were widespread reports of outages for Russian users on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In addition, Roskomnadzor said Thursday that media outlets covering the war should only use information from official Russian sources. This was followed Saturday by a warning to ten media outlets that they would be blocked unless they stopped using the terms “invasion”, “attack”, or “declaration of war” to describe events in Ukraine — instead, Roskomnadzor said, it should be described as a “special military operation”. The outlets that received the warning included Meduza, TV station Dozhd, Mediazona, The New Times and Ekho Moskvy (Mediazona and Dozhd are designated ‘foreign agents’ by the Russian authorities).

Sanctions

A series of sanctions, boycotts and other restrictions against Russia have been announced by nations around the world. Here are some of the most significant:

Joint sanctions

The latest sanctions were unveiled Saturday night in a joint statement from the EU, U.S. and Canada that pledged to remove some Russian banks from international payments system SWIFT, put restrictions on the Russian Central Bank, and ban the practice whereby by wealthy Russians can buy citizenship of European countries (so-called ‘golden passports’). Sanctions against the Central Bank appear to be the most deadly part; they will freeze more than half of Russia’s financial reserves which total at $643 billion.

Other sanctions include:

United States:

*Symbolic sanctions on Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (similar sanctions were imposed by the European Union and the United Kingdom)
*Russian banks, including state-owned VTB, Otkritie, Sovkombank and Novikombank, were targeted by full-spectrum sanctions: a freeze on their assets, ban on operations, and punishments for U.S. and European organizations that work with them. Russia’s largest bank, state-owned Sberbank, was hit with less comprehensive sanctions: all correspondent accounts with Sberbank in the U.S. will need to be shut within 30 days (this will stop Sberbank from dealing in dollars). At the same time, the U.S. banned Russia’s largest privately-owned bank, Alfa Bank, from issuing shares.
*A ban on the export of high-tech goods to Russia. In short, this means any would-be exporters of high-tech goods — like computers, electronics, communications equipment or equipment for the aerospace industry — will need to obtain an official license. The only exception is communication equipment for the consumer sector: i.e. there will be no ‘iPhone ban’.
*Eleven Russian companies — including state-owned gas giant Gazprom — were banned from U.S. capital markets.

European Union

*All European Union airspace will be closed to Russian aircraft.
*State-owned television channel RT and news agency Sputnik will be banned from operating.
*A €100,000 limit on the size of bank deposits that can be held by Russian individuals and organizations.
*Bans on the export to Russia of equipment for the oil and gas industry, the aerospace sector, and defense companies.
*EU-produced aircraft will no longer be leased to Russian airlines. This restriction may affect existing contracts — meaning planes must be returned within 30 days, according to Russian newspaper Kommersant. Two-thirds of the fleet of national carrier Aeroflot is made up of leased aircraft, as well as two-thirds of the fleet of top airline S7 and the entire fleet of Urals Airline.
*Finally, the Council of Europe has suspended all representatives of Russia from participation in the pan-European rights body’s Committee of Ministers and its parliament. However, Russia remains a formal member of the body.

United Kingdom

*On the day of the invasion, the U.K. announced sanctions on major Russian companies including state-owned bank VTB, national carrier Aeroflot and defense conglomeration Rostec.
*Like the EU, the U.K. announced a limit on the amount of money that Russian citizens can deposit with U.K. banks — in this case, £50,000 ($66,800).
*A moratorium on the export of high-tech equipment to Russia, sanctioned the children of high-ranking officials (including those of oil executive and Putin confidante Igor Sechin), as well as banning a series of major Russian companies from raising debt on U.K. markets.
*A ban on Russian aircraft from entering U.K. airspace.

How far will Western sanctions go?

The nature of future rounds of sanctions will depend on the length and intensity of the fighting in Ukraine, and whether Ukraine survives as a functioning state, according Ivan Timofeev, an expert on sanctions at the Russian International Affairs Council. Either way, more sanctions are all-but inevitable. “There are two mutually-exclusive scenarios: either the war drags on, or it ends quickly and leads to regime change in Ukraine. Either scenario will lead to new sanctions,” Timofeev said. 

There is plenty of scope for new restrictions, according to Timofeev. They could include: increasing the number of targeted banks; reducing the ability of financial institutions to open correspondent accounts in the U.S.; increasing the number of countries who will not issue visas to Russians; ramping up sanctions on oil and gas companies working in Russia; and imposing new sanctions on the infrastructure, transport or telecommunications sectors.

What will happen to the Russian economy?

GDP. The Russian economy’s long-term potential for annual growth is now less than 1.5 percent, according to Sofiya Donets, the chief economist at investment bank Renaissance Capital. She added that the economy will shrink this year — despite high oil prices. 

Ruble. “80 rubles to the U.S. dollar and higher is our new reality,” said Donets. According to her forecast, a U.S. dollar will be worth about 85 rubles this year. However, Donets spoke prior to the announcement of Western restrictions on SWIFT and the Russian Central Bank, which could put even greater, short-term pressure on the ruble.  

Income. “Russian incomes will be eaten up by inflation, uncertainty, and a lack of investment,” said Donets. In the medium-term, real incomes will stagnate or fall.

Inflation. An inflation shock triggered by a falling ruble is inevitable. For the moment, Donets said inflation this year could reach 7 percent. But she admitted that “the situation is worse than even our most pessimistic worst-case scenarios.”

Reports that EU Will Spend $500 Million to Further Arm Ukraine, Including Sending Fighter Jets; Turkey May Close Black Sea to Russian Ships

four jet plane on sky
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I apologize for the multiple posts today but things are escalating quickly and possibly in a very dangerous direction. Below is an excerpt from an article by ZeroHedge:

Update (1750ET)There’s now an EU-wide consensus on supplying Ukraine with arms amid reports that large columns of ground and armored forces are moving closer to Kiev, and as fighting rages across other parts of Ukraine. “European Union member states on Sunday agreed to unblock 450 millions euros ($500 million) for members states to buy arms for Ukraine, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said,” the AFP reports.

“The measure is part of a wide-ranging package of support and sanctions agreed by the 27 EU states. Borrell said they also formally approved a move to ban any transactions with the Russian Central Bank.” It comes as unconfirmed reports suggest Putin may be frustrated at the slower than expected progress of the Russian forces.

Borrell also reportedly said that package will include fighter jets:

“We’re going to provide even fighting jets,” Borrell said at a Sunday press conference. “We’re not talking about just ammunition. We are providing more important arms to go to a war.”

I don’t know the time and logistics required to get fighter jets or even the other items to Ukraine and if it would make a difference by the time they got to soldiers in Ukraine. This could ultimately amount to a lot of posturing. Anybody who knows more about military logistics can feel free to chime in on the comments.

Analyst Clint Ehrlich (who I recommend following on Twitter) commented on the sending of fighter jets to Ukraine:

The EU providing fighter jets to Ukraine is another *massive* escalation. Russia will undoubtedly allege (correctly?) that the fighters are actually flown by European pilots. If you wanted to suck Europe into the war, this is what you would do.

Back to the ZeroHedge report, citing the Wall Street Journal, Turkey has announced it will execute the articles of the Montreux Agreement:

Also on Sunday for the first time Turkey signaled it is ready to block Russian naval access to the Black Sea

“Turkey’s foreign minister said Sunday that the situation in Ukraine had become a war, a legal distinction that paves the way for Ankara to potentially ban Russian warships from entering the Black Sea through a strategic chokepoint,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention is now expected to be triggered. Speaking to CNN Turk Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said:

“We came to the conclusion that the situation in Ukraine has transformed into a war,” and this means “We will implement all articles of Montreux transparently.”

Last Thursday – which was the first day of the all-out Russian invasion, Ukraine’s government urged Turkey to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits for all Russian warship passage.

This move paves the way for Turkey to close the Black Sea to any more Russian ships entering. However, it cannot kick ships out that are already there. Russia might normally consider such a move an act of war, but Turkey is a NATO member.

Interfax has reported that Belgium will be supplying 3,000 automatic weapons and 200 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, TASS news has reported that negotiations between Ukrainian and Russian delegations will start on Monday morning on the border of Belarus (they are 10 hours ahead of us). Apparently the delay is due to logistics issues with the Ukrainian delegation. According to Interfax, the Russian delegation is looking to establish a road map for further talks:

The talks with the Ukrainian delegation are an opportunity to develop a road map to achieve agreements, but it should be short-term, Leonid Slutsky, State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee head and a member of the Russian delegation, said.

“Frankly speaker, we’re quite hard-edged about our stance. But, at the same time, the negotiating process is truly an opportunity for both making some concessions and developing a road map, but it must be very short-term,” Slutsky told journalists on Sunday.

Both Sides Suppressing Non-Establishment Media

internet writing technology computer
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The EU has announced that it will ban RT and Sputnik. According to Politico EU:

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Sunday that Kremlin-backed RT, formerly known as Russia Today, and Sputnik, would be banned in the EU.

“We will ban the Kremlin’s media machine in the EU. The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, and their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war,” she said.

“We are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” von der Leyen added, without providing more details.

I would have quoted from RT’s article about this but I’m now having trouble accessing RT’s website.

The OSCE is reporting that in Russia, media outlets that don’t toe the official narrative are being threatened with censorship as well:

On 26 February the Russian media regulatory agency Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media), under the threat of hefty fines and blocking, demanded that at least 10 media outlets, including Ekho Moskvy, InoSMI, Mediazona, The New Times, Dozhd, Svobodnaya Pressa, Krym.Realii, Novaya Gazeta, Jurnalist and Lenizdat, remove materials about the war in Ukraine. Roskomnadzor reportedly said that these media outlets published “false information” about the shelling of Ukrainian cities by the Russian armed forces and the death of Ukrainian civilians, as well as materials in which the Russia’s ongoing military operation is called an attack, an invasion, or refers to a declaration of war.

Getting it Wrong About Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Putin doesn’t bluff.  I’ve noted this to people in the past.  Other really smart and experienced Russia experts – far more experienced and knowledgeable than me – have pointed this out.  Did we really forget this?  Did we really think he was bluffing?

I don’t think I thought he was bluffing.  I thought that there were a host of other “military-technical measures” that Russia could take to pressure the west and increasingly show that it meant business about its interests.  I also thought that if Russia took military action in Ukraine, it would be limited to securing the entire Donbas area decisively and likely in response to a significant provocation.  But as we all now know, that’s not what happened.

On Monday, February 14th, Putin had a televised meeting with his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in which Lavrov stated that he didn’t think diplomacy had been exhausted and advised to continue. Putin agreed.  A week later, Putin signed the Duma decree recognizing the DPR and LPR which also allowed the use of military force.  Three days later, he ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

Between the week of 2/14 and 2/21, it appears that something tipped Putin’s thinking into this decision.  Something during that time served as the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Some have suggested that it was Zelensky’s implicit threat of developing nuclear weapons during his Munich Security Conference speech on February 19th.  The threat of nuclear acquisition was indeed mentioned by Putin in his address announcing the invasion of Ukraine:

“I would like to additionally emphasise the following. Focused on their own goals, the leading NATO countries are supporting the far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine, those who will never forgive the people of Crimea and Sevastopol for freely making a choice to reunite with Russia.

They will undoubtedly try to bring war to Crimea just as they have done in Donbass, to kill innocent people just as members of the punitive units of Ukrainian nationalists and Hitler’s accomplices did during the Great Patriotic War. They have also openly laid claim to several other Russian regions.

If we look at the sequence of events and the incoming reports, the showdown between Russia and these forces cannot be avoided. It is only a matter of time. They are getting ready and waiting for the right moment. Moreover, they went as far as aspire to acquire nuclear weapons. We will not let this happen.” [Emphasis mine]

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation, also discussed this threat on a Russian news talk show this past Saturday, asserting that Ukraine has the scientific and technical resources for creating ballistic missiles:

“[T]hey are seeking to create their own ballistic systems which are really capable of delivering a strike on our territory…Ukraine has been developing combat missile systems lately…These are Grom systems, and in general it is not a big problem for any design bureau to increase the distance from 300 kilometers and beyond. There are other systems which actually are intermediate-range systems [with a distance] of up to 2,000 kilometers. In fact, this is a real threat to Russia, up to the Ural Mountains.”

At this point, we can’t know for sure what it was that finally precipitated Putin’s fateful decision.  For now, we can only speculate.  But we can observe the fact that this is a departure from Putin’s previous actions when it comes to the use of military force over the past 15 years.  The operations in Georgia, Crimea, the Donbas (prior to 2022) and Syria were all relatively measured and on behalf of a limited objective.  They were operations that did not see massive casualties or a protracted presence that would lead to a potential quagmire.  That’s why me and many other analysts were caught on the back foot with this move by Putin.  The cost/benefit analysis for this just didn’t seem to make sense at this time. 

The economic costs are already looking to be significant and a previously fractured west is now seemingly rallying around the US/NATO flag far more than before – consequences that are not in Russia’s interests. 

It also doesn’t seem to fit very well with Putin’s legalistic nature and his past finger-wagging at US/NATO for its flouting of the UN charter and international law.  A lawyer by training, Putin has always been very adept at finding legalisms to justify his actions both domestically and internationally.  He once spoke of the tyranny of the law as his governing style.  I suppose he could bring up the Kosovo precedent or humanitarian intervention doctrine that the west has tried to use to justify its bogus military actions.  But it seems rather unconvincing.

Perhaps this will end soon and the costs in blood will not have been too much.  But the scale of this operation leaves far more potential for nasty unintended consequences than many of the other military-technical, diplomatic or economic measures that could have been taken to pressure the west, including taking control of the entire Donbas region.   

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, for his part, is literally out of central casting as a relatable underdog trying to defend himself against a bigger foe after being suckered into the fight by his fair-weather friends who have their own agenda.  So far, he’s playing the role much better than anyone imagined and many on the sidelines are rooting for him, while Putin is losing any benefit of the doubt that some wanted to give him.

An experienced fellow Russia watcher once commented to me years ago that Putin seems to have a knack for pulling a rabbit out of his hat when confronted with certain geopolitical problems.  Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that he has another rabbit left to pull out.

Zelensky Declines Peace Talks, Citing “Capitulation” Terms; Germany Now Sending Weapons to Ukraine & Agrees to Cut Russia from SWIFT

Earlier today, Russian media reported that Ukrainian president Zelensky ultimately declined talks with Russia due to what he called terms of “capitulation” from Moscow. According to RT:

Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is continuing after the country’s leadership declined to negotiate, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday.

President Vladimir Putin previously ordered the Russian troops to halt their advance on Friday, awaiting a response from Kiev, Moscow said. It added that the offensive continued on Saturday.

Alexey Arestovich, an adviser at Zelensky’s office, confirmed to Ukrainian media that Kiev has declined the talks with Russia, citing the “terms” put forward by Moscow through intermediaries. “It was an attempt to force us into capitulation,” he said, without elaborating.

Zelensky may have publicly shown interest in peace talks with Russia as a ploy to get the west to provide more substantive support. Germany has announced that it has reversed its long time position and is now getting ready to send weapons to Ukraine. Der Spiegel reported:

The federal government wants to deliver 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine “as soon as possible” . This was announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).

Even more concerning, it is just now being reported that Germany has finally agreed to remove Russia from the SWIFT banking system. According to BBC News, the cutoff from SWIFT will initially only involve some Russian banks but no further details on which banks were provided:

The measures agreed by the US, UK, Europe and Canada also include restricting the Russian central bank’s international reserves, the nations said in a joint statement.

This comes after an emotional speech given earlier by Zelensky calling for immediate EU membership for Ukraine and Russia’s removal from SWIFT. Germany had reportedly been one of the holdouts on this decision, along with Hungary. According to Euronews:

On his Twitter account, Zelenskyy shared he was receiving “support calls” from several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who he said offered “concrete assistance to Ukraine”.

An earlier misunderstanding regarding a missed call from Italian PM Mario Draghi was also cleared up. Zelenskyy claimed that Draghi “in a phone conversation supported Russia’s disconnection from SWIFT” and promised defence assistance.

Bloomberg reports that Wall Street interests had advised the Biden administration not to cut Russia from SWIFT, arguing that the blowback on the U.S. could be dangerous:

Opponents of the idea passed along a warning: Booting Russia from the critical global system — which handles 42 million messages a day and serves as a lifeline to some of the world’s biggest financial institutions — could backfire, sending inflation higher, pushing Russia closer to China and shielding financial transactions from scrutiny by the West. It might also encourage the development of a SWIFT alternative that could eventually damage the supremacy of the U.S. dollar.

Zelensky Agrees to Peace Talks with Putin; US State Department Opposes Negotiations

According to Russian news agency TASS, Ukrainian president Zelensky’s press secretary on Saturday has publicly stated that Zelensky has agreed to peace talks with Putin to negotiate a ceasefire:

KIEV, February 26. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal and is ready to negotiate peace and a ceasefire, Zelensky’s press secretary Sergey Nikiforov said on Saturday.

“I have to refute allegations that we have refused to have talks. Ukraine has always been and is ready to negotiate peace and a ceasefire. It is our permanent position. We have accepted the Russian president’s proposal,” he wrote on his Facebook account.

According to Nikoforov, consultations are underway about the place and time of the negotiations. The sooner talks begin, the more chances there will be to restore normal life, he noted.

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said earlier that Putin was ready to send a delegation to Minsk for talks with Ukraine. Later, he said that in response to the initiative to hold talks in the Belarusian capital city the Ukrainian side suggested Warsaw as a possible venue and still later lost contact.

RT has reported that Kiev requested Israel to serve as a mediator:

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk told the New York Times that Tel Aviv has yet to respond. “They didn’t say no. They are trying to figure out where they are in this chess play,” he said, adding “We do believe that Israel is the only democratic state in the world that has great relations with both Ukraine and Russia.”

This turn of events follows a video appeal Zelensky made on Friday to Putin for negotiations. According to CNN:

Speaking in Russian, Zelensky said: “I would like to address the President of the Russian Federation once again. There is fighting all over Ukraine now. Let’s sit down at the negotiation table to stop the people’s deaths.”

The CNN report further stated that Chinese leader Xi confirmed Putin’s willingness to negotiate with Kiev after a telephone call with the Russian president on Friday:

In a phone call Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Putin said Russia is “willing to conduct high-level negotiations” with Ukraine, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

The U.S., for it’s part, extended an offer to evacuate Zelensky from Kiev for his own safety, which Zelensky declined, stating he wanted to remain in the capital. However, the U.S. State Department does not appear to support the proposed negotiations between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents as Reuters reported that US State Department spokesman Ned Price said:

“Now we see Moscow suggesting that diplomacy take place at the barrel of a gun, or as Moscow’s rockets, mortars, artillery target the Ukrainian people,” he said. “This is not real diplomacy. Those are not the conditions for real diplomacy.”

Let’s hope that these talks take place as soon as possible and a resolution is found to stop the war.

Lt. Col. Daniel Davis Tells The Hill US Arrogance on NATO Contributed to Current Crisis & Declaring Neutrality for Ukraine Could Stop War; Full Transcript of Putin’s 2/24/22 Speech

Below is the full text of Vladimir Putin’s address announcing the military operation in Ukraine on 2/24/22 from the Kremlin website:

I consider it necessary today to speak again about the tragic events in Donbass and the key aspects of ensuring the security of Russia.

I will begin with what I said in my address on February 21, 2022. I spoke about our biggest concerns and worries, and about the fundamental threats which irresponsible Western politicians created for Russia consistently, rudely and unceremoniously from year to year. I am referring to the eastward expansion of NATO, which is moving its military infrastructure ever closer to the Russian border.

It is a fact that over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe. In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and, as I said, is approaching our very border.

Why is this happening? Where did this insolent manner of talking down from the height of their exceptionalism, infallibility and all-permissiveness come from? What is the explanation for this contemptuous and disdainful attitude to our interests and absolutely legitimate demands?

The answer is simple. Everything is clear and obvious. In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union grew weaker and subsequently broke apart. That experience should serve as a good lesson for us, because it has shown us that the paralysis of power and will is the first step towards complete degradation and oblivion. We lost confidence for only one moment, but it was enough to disrupt the balance of forces in the world.

As a result, the old treaties and agreements are no longer effective. Entreaties and requests do not help. Anything that does not suit the dominant state, the powers that be, is denounced as archaic, obsolete and useless. At the same time, everything it regards as useful is presented as the ultimate truth and forced on others regardless of the cost, abusively and by any means available. Those who refuse to comply are subjected to strong-arm tactics.

What I am saying now does not concerns only Russia, and Russia is not the only country that is worried about this. This has to do with the entire system of international relations, and sometimes even US allies. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a redivision of the world, and the norms of international law that developed by that time – and the most important of them, the fundamental norms that were adopted following WWII and largely formalised its outcome – came in the way of those who declared themselves the winners of the Cold War.

Of course, practice, international relations and the rules regulating them had to take into account the changes that took place in the world and in the balance of forces. However, this should have been done professionally, smoothly, patiently, and with due regard and respect for the interests of all states and one’s own responsibility. Instead, we saw a state of euphoria created by the feeling of absolute superiority, a kind of modern absolutism, coupled with the low cultural standards and arrogance of those who formulated and pushed through decisions that suited only themselves. The situation took a different turn.

There are many examples of this. First a bloody military operation was waged against Belgrade, without the UN Security Council’s sanction but with combat aircraft and missiles used in the heart of Europe. The bombing of peaceful cities and vital infrastructure went on for several weeks. I have to recall these facts, because some Western colleagues prefer to forget them, and when we mentioned the event, they prefer to avoid speaking about international law, instead emphasising the circumstances which they interpret as they think necessary.

Then came the turn of Iraq, Libya and Syria. The illegal use of military power against Libya and the distortion of all the UN Security Council decisions on Libya ruined the state, created a huge seat of international terrorism, and pushed the country towards a humanitarian catastrophe, into the vortex of a civil war, which has continued there for years. The tragedy, which was created for hundreds of thousands and even millions of people not only in Libya but in the whole region, has led to a large-scale exodus from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe.

A similar fate was also prepared for Syria. The combat operations conducted by the Western coalition in that country without the Syrian government’s approval or UN Security Council’s sanction can only be defined as aggression and intervention.

But the example that stands apart from the above events is, of course, the invasion of Iraq without any legal grounds. They used the pretext of allegedly reliable information available in the United States about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. To prove that allegation, the US Secretary of State held up a vial with white power, publicly, for the whole world to see, assuring the international community that it was a chemical warfare agent created in Iraq. It later turned out that all of that was a fake and a sham, and that Iraq did not have any chemical weapons. Incredible and shocking but true. We witnessed lies made at the highest state level and voiced from the high UN rostrum. As a result we see a tremendous loss in human life, damage, destruction, and a colossal upsurge of terrorism.

Overall, it appears that nearly everywhere, in many regions of the world where the United States brought its law and order, this created bloody, non-healing wounds and the curse of international terrorism and extremism. I have only mentioned the most glaring but far from only examples of disregard for international law.

This array includes promises not to expand NATO eastwards even by an inch. To reiterate: they have deceived us, or, to put it simply, they have played us. Sure, one often hears that politics is a dirty business. It could be, but it shouldn’t be as dirty as it is now, not to such an extent. This type of con-artist behaviour is contrary not only to the principles of international relations but also and above all to the generally accepted norms of morality and ethics. Where is justice and truth here? Just lies and hypocrisy all around.

Incidentally, US politicians, political scientists and journalists write and say that a veritable “empire of lies” has been created inside the United States in recent years. It is hard to disagree with this – it is really so. But one should not be modest about it: the United States is still a great country and a system-forming power. All its satellites not only humbly and obediently say yes to and parrot it at the slightest pretext but also imitate its behaviour and enthusiastically accept the rules it is offering them. Therefore, one can say with good reason and confidence that the whole so-called Western bloc formed by the United States in its own image and likeness is, in its entirety, the very same “empire of lies.”

As for our country, after the disintegration of the USSR, given the entire unprecedented openness of the new, modern Russia, its readiness to work honestly with the United States and other Western partners, and its practically unilateral disarmament, they immediately tried to put the final squeeze on us, finish us off, and utterly destroy us. This is how it was in the 1990s and the early 2000s, when the so-called collective West was actively supporting separatism and gangs of mercenaries in southern Russia. What victims, what losses we had to sustain and what trials we had to go through at that time before we broke the back of international terrorism in the Caucasus! We remember this and will never forget.

Properly speaking, the attempts to use us in their own interests never ceased until quite recently: they sought to destroy our traditional values and force on us their false values that would erode us, our people from within, the attitudes they have been aggressively imposing on their countries, attitudes that are directly leading to degradation and degeneration, because they are contrary to human nature. This is not going to happen. No one has ever succeeded in doing this, nor will they succeed now.

Despite all that, in December 2021, we made yet another attempt to reach agreement with the United States and its allies on the principles of European security and NATO’s non-expansion. Our efforts were in vain. The United States has not changed its position. It does not believe it necessary to agree with Russia on a matter that is critical for us. The United States is pursuing its own objectives, while neglecting our interests.

Of course, this situation begs a question: what next, what are we to expect? If history is any guide, we know that in 1940 and early 1941 the Soviet Union went to great lengths to prevent war or at least delay its outbreak. To this end, the USSR sought not to provoke the potential aggressor until the very end by refraining or postponing the most urgent and obvious preparations it had to make to defend itself from an imminent attack. When it finally acted, it was too late.

As a result, the country was not prepared to counter the invasion by Nazi Germany, which attacked our Motherland on June 22, 1941, without declaring war. The country stopped the enemy and went on to defeat it, but this came at a tremendous cost. The attempt to appease the aggressor ahead of the Great Patriotic War proved to be a mistake which came at a high cost for our people. In the first months after the hostilities broke out, we lost vast territories of strategic importance, as well as millions of lives. We will not make this mistake the second time. We have no right to do so.

Those who aspire to global dominance have publicly designated Russia as their enemy. They did so with impunity. Make no mistake, they had no reason to act this way. It is true that they have considerable financial, scientific, technological, and military capabilities. We are aware of this and have an objective view of the economic threats we have been hearing, just as our ability to counter this brash and never-ending blackmail. Let me reiterate that we have no illusions in this regard and are extremely realistic in our assessments.

As for military affairs, even after the dissolution of the USSR and losing a considerable part of its capabilities, today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states. Moreover, it has a certain advantage in several cutting-edge weapons. In this context, there should be no doubt for anyone that any potential aggressor will face defeat and ominous consequences should it directly attack our country.

At the same time, technology, including in the defence sector, is changing rapidly. One day there is one leader, and tomorrow another, but a military presence in territories bordering on Russia, if we permit it to go ahead, will stay for decades to come or maybe forever, creating an ever mounting and totally unacceptable threat for Russia.

Even now, with NATO’s eastward expansion the situation for Russia has been becoming worse and more dangerous by the year. Moreover, these past days NATO leadership has been blunt in its statements that they need to accelerate and step up efforts to bring the alliance’s infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders. In other words, they have been toughening their position. We cannot stay idle and passively observe these developments. This would be an absolutely irresponsible thing to do for us.

Any further expansion of the North Atlantic alliance’s infrastructure or the ongoing efforts to gain a military foothold of the Ukrainian territory are unacceptable for us. Of course, the question is not about NATO itself. It merely serves as a tool of US foreign policy. The problem is that in territories adjacent to Russia, which I have to note is our historical land, a hostile “anti-Russia” is taking shape. Fully controlled from the outside, it is doing everything to attract NATO armed forces and obtain cutting-edge weapons.

For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends. For our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a nation. This is not an exaggeration; this is a fact. It is not only a very real threat to our interests but to the very existence of our state and to its sovereignty. It is the red line which we have spoken about on numerous occasions. They have crossed it.

This brings me to the situation in Donbass. We can see that the forces that staged the coup in Ukraine in 2014 have seized power, are keeping it with the help of ornamental election procedures and have abandoned the path of a peaceful conflict settlement. For eight years, for eight endless years we have been doing everything possible to settle the situation by peaceful political means. Everything was in vain.

As I said in my previous address, you cannot look without compassion at what is happening there. It became impossible to tolerate it. We had to stop that atrocity, that genocide of the millions of people who live there and who pinned their hopes on Russia, on all of us. It is their aspirations, the feelings and pain of these people that were the main motivating force behind our decision to recognise the independence of the Donbass people’s republics.

I would like to additionally emphasise the following. Focused on their own goals, the leading NATO countries are supporting the far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine, those who will never forgive the people of Crimea and Sevastopol for freely making a choice to reunite with Russia.

They will undoubtedly try to bring war to Crimea just as they have done in Donbass, to kill innocent people just as members of the punitive units of Ukrainian nationalists and Hitler’s accomplices did during the Great Patriotic War. They have also openly laid claim to several other Russian regions.

If we look at the sequence of events and the incoming reports, the showdown between Russia and these forces cannot be avoided. It is only a matter of time. They are getting ready and waiting for the right moment. Moreover, they went as far as aspire to acquire nuclear weapons. We will not let this happen.

I have already said that Russia accepted the new geopolitical reality after the dissolution of the USSR. We have been treating all new post-Soviet states with respect and will continue to act this way. We respect and will respect their sovereignty, as proven by the assistance we provided to Kazakhstan when it faced tragic events and a challenge in terms of its statehood and integrity. However, Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist while facing a permanent threat from the territory of today’s Ukraine.

Let me remind you that in 2000–2005 we used our military to push back against terrorists in the Caucasus and stood up for the integrity of our state. We preserved Russia. In 2014, we supported the people of Crimea and Sevastopol. In 2015, we used our Armed Forces to create a reliable shield that prevented terrorists from Syria from penetrating Russia. This was a matter of defending ourselves. We had no other choice.

The same is happening today. They did not leave us any other option for defending Russia and our people, other than the one we are forced to use today. In these circumstances, we have to take bold and immediate action. The people’s republics of Donbass have asked Russia for help.

In this context, in accordance with Article 51 (Chapter VII) of the UN Charter, with permission of Russia’s Federation Council, and in execution of the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic, ratified by the Federal Assembly on February 22, I made a decision to carry out a special military operation.

The purpose of this operation is to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime. To this end, we will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.

It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force. At the same time, we have been hearing an increasing number of statements coming from the West that there is no need any more to abide by the documents setting forth the outcomes of World War II, as signed by the totalitarian Soviet regime. How can we respond to that?

The outcomes of World War II and the sacrifices our people had to make to defeat Nazism are sacred. This does not contradict the high values of human rights and freedoms in the reality that emerged over the post-war decades. This does not mean that nations cannot enjoy the right to self-determination, which is enshrined in Article 1 of the UN Charter.

Let me remind you that the people living in territories which are part of today’s Ukraine were not asked how they want to build their lives when the USSR was created or after World War II. Freedom guides our policy, the freedom to choose independently our future and the future of our children. We believe that all the peoples living in today’s Ukraine, anyone who want to do this, must be able to enjoy this right to make a free choice.

In this context I would like to address the citizens of Ukraine. In 2014, Russia was obliged to protect the people of Crimea and Sevastopol from those who you yourself call “nats.” The people of Crimea and Sevastopol made their choice in favour of being with their historical homeland, Russia, and we supported their choice. As I said, we could not act otherwise.

The current events have nothing to do with a desire to infringe on the interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. They are connected with the defending Russia from those who have taken Ukraine hostage and are trying to use it against our country and our people.

I reiterate: we are acting to defend ourselves from the threats created for us and from a worse peril than what is happening now. I am asking you, however hard this may be, to understand this and to work together with us so as to turn this tragic page as soon as possible and to move forward together, without allowing anyone to interfere in our affairs and our relations but developing them independently, so as to create favourable conditions for overcoming all these problems and to strengthen us from within as a single whole, despite the existence of state borders. I believe in this, in our common future.

I would also like to address the military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Comrade officers,

Your fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did not fight the Nazi occupiers and did not defend our common Motherland to allow today’s neo-Nazis to seize power in Ukraine. You swore the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people and not to the junta, the people’s adversary which is plundering Ukraine and humiliating the Ukrainian people.

I urge you to refuse to carry out their criminal orders. I urge you to immediately lay down arms and go home. I will explain what this means: the military personnel of the Ukrainian army who do this will be able to freely leave the zone of hostilities and return to their families.

I want to emphasise again that all responsibility for the possible bloodshed will lie fully and wholly with the ruling Ukrainian regime.

I would now like to say something very important for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside. No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history. No matter how the events unfold, we are ready. All the necessary decisions in this regard have been taken. I hope that my words will be heard.

Citizens of Russia,

The culture and values, experience and traditions of our ancestors invariably provided a powerful underpinning for the wellbeing and the very existence of entire states and nations, their success and viability. Of course, this directly depends on the ability to quickly adapt to constant change, maintain social cohesion, and readiness to consolidate and summon all the available forces in order to move forward.

We always need to be strong, but this strength can take on different forms. The “empire of lies,” which I mentioned in the beginning of my speech, proceeds in its policy primarily from rough, direct force. This is when our saying on being “all brawn and no brains” applies.

We all know that having justice and truth on our side is what makes us truly strong. If this is the case, it would be hard to disagree with the fact that it is our strength and our readiness to fight that are the bedrock of independence and sovereignty and provide the necessary foundation for building a reliable future for your home, your family, and your Motherland.

Dear compatriots,

I am certain that devoted soldiers and officers of Russia’s Armed Forces will perform their duty with professionalism and courage. I have no doubt that the government institutions at all levels and specialists will work effectively to guarantee the stability of our economy, financial system and social wellbeing, and the same applies to corporate executives and the entire business community. I hope that all parliamentary parties and civil society take a consolidated, patriotic position.

At the end of the day, the future of Russia is in the hands of its multi-ethnic people, as has always been the case in our history. This means that the decisions that I made will be executed, that we will achieve the goals we have set, and reliably guarantee the security of our Motherland.

I believe in your support and the invincible force rooted in the love for our Fatherland.