The Russian president gave a year-end conference and spoke about the conflict with Ukraine, assuring that Russia does not want to go to war, that it is the West that stirs up the idea, and that the territory of Ukraine was “historically” Russian and only with the fall of the Soviet Union was it awarded to Ukraine.
It is perhaps the first time Vladimir Putin has clearly described why he invaded Crimea in 2014 and why he is now offering support to groups seeking independence from Ukraine.
According to the Daily Mail, he said that Donbass, a Ukrainian region on the Russian border,”‘never thought of itself as anything other than part of Russia” and that he was “forced to do something about it in 2014,” when he invaded Crimea and ended up annexing Russia.
“The future of Donbass should be determined by the people who live in Donbass… It cannot be any other way. We see our role as mediators in creating the best conditions for determining the future of the people who live in this territory,” said Putin.
The Russian president accused the Ukrainian government of treating Russians in the region as “second-class citizens” and vowed to defend them.
“They are pushing Russians and the Russian-speaking population from their historical territory,” Putin said, explaining that when the Soviet Union fell, territories that were part of Russia were awarded to Ukraine.
NATO and the West are the warmongers
The U.S., Ukraine, and NATO accuse Moscow of sending more than 100,000 troops, tanks, and armaments to the Ukraine-Russia border and say Putin is planning an invasion.
But Putin denied that is the case and said his military is there to defend attempts at NATO advances that are trying to provoke Russia with its constant bellicose attitude.
“This is not our choice; we do not want this. We have to think about ensuring our security prospects not just for today and next week but for the near future,” Putin said, denying that going into armed conflict is his intention.
Senior Russian defense officials also charged last month that NATO and Ukrainian forces violated the Minsk cease-fire agreements on the border.
“Are we putting missiles next to the United States’ borders? No, it is the United States that has come to us with their missiles, they are already on our doorstep”, the Russian president complained.
Putin expressed optimism over the Biden administration’s initiative that will launch a round of diplomatic negotiations next month in Geneva to seek a way out of the conflict but warned that his demand that NATO cannot move further eastward still stands.
“There must not be any eastward NATO expansion… The ball is in their court. They need to provide us with some answers,” Putin asserted.
But the Russian president said he does not trust treaties with NATO as they have failed to keep their word on previous occasions.
“The course of negotiations is not important to us, the result is important… ‘Not one inch to the East,’ they told us in the 90s,'” Putin recalled. “So what? They cheated, just brazenly tricked us! Five waves of NATO expansion and now they are already with weapons systems in Romania and Poland.”
Analysts claim that the enmity between NATO and the Democratic Biden administration is because the Russian president has a nationalist profile and has rejected globalism. During Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House, who is also considered a nationalist, relations with Russia were relatively positive.
Putin served as an agent of the KGB, the Soviet Union’s intelligence service.
During the expansion of the Russian communist regime in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, millions of people were killed or died of unnatural causes.
Between 1932 and 1933, millions of Ukrainians starved to death because Russian dictator Joseph Stalin forced the rural population to give up their land to work on “collective farms” to accelerate industrialization, similar to Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in China.
It is estimated that nearly 7 million Ukrainians died.
While the crimes of the Soviet Union predate Putin, the hostility of Ukrainians towards Putin may well respond to his declared sympathy to the former Soviet Union.