MOSCOW – Sitting down in a chair, wearing a red tie, tie in hand emphasizing every complaint, President Vladimir V. Putin gave a speech Monday that sounded like a call to war.
It is also the culmination of a propaganda attack orchestrated by Russian state media in recent days – a stark demonstration of how the Kremlin can use its dominance over Russia. wave to form the basis of a political decision that could cause widespread pain.
By Tuesday afternoon, Russia’s stock market was back down, down to about 20%. fell in less than a week, as businesses braced for the brunt of new Western sanctions. And the potential, far more tragic costs, if Putin goes ahead with an invasion of Ukraine remain incalculable.
But for the millions of Russians watching television, the story of the last days has completely different: Explosions and flashes of firecrackers. Blurry footage of human monuments. Women and children, crying and running away. A call for secession to the president. An emergency meeting of Putin’s Security Council. An impressive address for the country.
Then, last weekend, everything changed. From the occupied territory of Ukraine to the halls of the Kremlin, the rationale for a possible invasion was laid out, piece by piece, and presented to the Russian public in a push. non-stop on state television.
By Tuesday morning, the breakfast news on the state-run Channel 1 announced a “historic moment.”
“Eight years of fear are over,” declared the announcer, referring to residents of separatist-occupied eastern Ukraine, who, according to the Kremlin’s baseless claims, are being controlled by Russian forces. Ukrainian “genocide”.
Margarita Kurdyukova, 60, a pensioner in Moscow, explains why she supports Putin’s decision: “We absolutely have to help those people. “Thanks to our government for at least getting the children and women out.”
However, it is too early to say how most Russians will react to Mr. Putin’s moves; So far, there has been no widespread jubilation that has accompanied his annexation of Crimea in 2014. On Tuesday, Russian state media announced that Ukraine had fired on Russian-backed separatist regions. Putin’s independence on Monday, however, remains unclear. The Kremlin will escalate the conflict.
“Hundreds and soon, tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Russian citizens could die because of Putin,” Aleksei A. Navalny, the opposition leader was jailed, posted on social media. “Certainly, he won’t let Ukraine grow and will drag it into a swamp, but Russia will pay the same price.”
Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, hinted on Tuesday that the Kremlin’s campaign against the pro-Western government of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky would not end with Putin’s recognition of territories separatists in the Donbas region, eastern Ukraine.
One nationalist, Andrei Lugovoi, said he hopes that the recognition marks “the beginning of the return of the whole of Ukraine to its historic status”. Another, Sergei Mironov, called Mr Zelensky “a coward, a liar and a scoundrel.”
The angry, correct tone is a continuation of a weekend of news reports that branded US-backed Ukraine as an aggressor – although it insists it has no plans to launch an attack against its territories. territory held by the separatists. State media began to warn the West of a possible Russian invasion to see the United States and its allies as fans.
During the weekly news program on Russian state TV, the host, Dmitri Kiselyov, on Sunday introduced to the international leaders he asserts can profit from war: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
“Things are very serious,” Kiselyov warned. “Ukraine is really getting dragged into a war with Russia.”
The following Sunday night, in a weekly program called “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin,” the President’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, reinforced the view that although war may be imminent, it is not Russia’s choice.
“Let me remind you that throughout its history, Russia has never attacked anyone,” Peskov said.
On Monday, Russian media broadcast separatist claims about an escalating attack by Ukrainian forces and broadcast a series of baseless claims – that Ukraine is shelling communication systems. , bridges, water purification stations and other infrastructure targets. Russian state television reported from the separatist-held city of Donetsk that Ukraine had sent saboteurs behind separatist fronts.
On a YouTube channel run by another state TV presenter, Vladimir Solovyov, a reporter on the ground in separatist territory described the death of a local resident as a result of shelling by Ukraine.
“He was torn to pieces,” he said. “There’s a genocide going on, people are being killed.”
Ukrainian officials insist their military is not preparing an attack on Donetsk, and say the separatists are shelling their territory.
Oleksiy Danilov, a senior Ukrainian security official, warned on Monday that Russia is waging a fierce disinformation war.
“A powerful information provocation is being carried out against our state,” Mr. “But it is necessary to trust only official information.”
But every Ukrainian protest was ignored by Russia. The Russian military said it destroyed two infantry fighting vehicles of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that entered Russian territory to try to evacuate Ukraine saboteurs. As a result, the Russian military said, five people were killed on the Ukrainian side – the first time in a crisis that the Russian military claims was linked to a deadly, direct clash with Ukrainian forces. . Ukraine denies such an incursion ever happened.
Understanding how the Ukraine crisis developed
Footage of women and children fleeing breakaway territories has been deeply emotional. On state television on Monday, a reporter described government psychologists campaigning to assist traumatized refugees who have left behind husbands and fathers.
“I want to say hello to my dad,” one boy said.
Shortly afterward, state television showed videos of Russian-backed leaders of the breakaway territories directly calling on Putin to recognize their independence, shortly leading up to a special Assembly meeting of the Russian Federation. Kremlin Security Council later that day.
The television special appeared to be designed to legitimize Mr. Putin’s fateful decision, making his decision-making deliberate and resolute – a rebuttal that seems to the critics. critic. who has found the president more isolated than ever during the pandemic.
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Putin gathered his highest-ranking officials in Yekaterininsky Hall in the Kremlin’s cave, chairing an extraordinary, televised meeting of his Security Council. Because of Covid, he was allowed to sit on his own white table with gold trim, while officials sat on chairs, lined up in front of him.
“I would like to stress that I did not discuss anything in advance with any of you,” Putin said midway through the meeting, creating a reality show thrill. “What is happening now is happening on a blank page because I wanted to get your point across without any preparation.”
Some officials expressed apparent anxiety, while others surreptitiously called for a large-scale military strike against Ukraine.
Putin repeatedly interrupted his foreign intelligence chief, Sergei Naryshkin, as he appeared to be undecided about whether or not to recognize the independence of the Russian-backed breakaway republics on the other side. eastern Ukraine, prompting Mr. Naryshkin to stammer and then say he was in favor. annexation of territories.
“That’s not what we’re talking about,” Putin countered.
For some Russians, the sight of the televised meeting emphasized that they had no way of influencing decisions being made in the Kremlin.
“I understand that practically nothing depends on you in this situation,” says Dasha Kryshnikova, a 19-year-old architecture student in central Moscow. “It’s strange that a group of people are making decisions on behalf of the whole country.”
Until recently, it seems that many Russians did not talk about an impending war. Pollsters say that although the possibility of war is one of Russians’ greatest fears, no anti-war movement has emerged in recent weeks as many simply It’s simply impossible to imagine – or not knowing how they can influence any decision.
“The Russians feel they cannot influence the process in the slightest,” says Aleksandra Arkhipova, a social anthropologist in Moscow. “So they try to avoid it.”
On Sunday, several activists unfurled anti-war posters in Pushkin Square in central Moscow and were immediately arrested. One of the protesters, Lev Ponomarev, a Soviet-era human rights activist, emphasized that at the moment many people still cannot envision a war, but most Russians would oppose it if it were. occurrence.
“There will be no support for this war,” Mr. Ponomarev said in an interview on Monday. “It will be the downfall of this regime.”
Alina Lobzina contributed reporting from Moscow.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/world/europe/putin-invading-ukraine.html Piece by piece, Russia’s reason for an invasion of Ukraine is laid out