Vladimir Putin received a standing ovation from thousands of his supporters a year ago at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. He addressed them wearing a jacket that cost between ten and twelve thousand euros. A year later, at the beginning of this week, he received applause and ovations from deputies, members of the government, oligarchs and a selected part of the “ordinary” people when he announced, in his State of the Nation address, that he would raise the minimum wage to slightly less than 300 dollars.
Russians who are enthusiastic about their president’s policies, and who work for the minimum wage, would have to work for three and a half years to buy a jacket like their leader was wearing at the Luzhniki Stadium. There is just one condition. During that time they should not eat or drink, or die in the conquest of Ukraine, which they are also enthusiastic about.
Russia has not won in Ukraine for a year, and they thought they would triumph in a few days. Russia thought that its president would walk through a “liberated” Kyiv, where the Nazis were no longer in power, which was why they started a war campaign in the first place. Instead of Putin, the US president walked through Kyiv on the anniversary of the attack. He was then closer to the front line than Russian leader has ever dared to be.
The lie is the thread that connects the first and the 365th day of Russian aggression against Ukraine, a country recognised by the whole world as independent. This Included Russia until a year ago.
The Kremlin and Putin had lied to the whole world and their own people that they would not attack Ukraine, until their tanks and missiles began their attack on the evening of February 24. They also lied that their goal was “demilitarisation” and “denazification” of Ukraine. They lie to this day when they call what they have been doing in Ukraine a “special military operation” instead of war, invasion, occupation, and aggression.
The President of Russia is lying to his people when he assures them that after a year of economic isolation, the country can do everything alone, and that its economy is “self-sufficient”. No economy in the world is self-sufficient, neither the US nor the Chinese economy , the two largest economies, let alone the Russian one, which has plummeted in the past year.
The story of the self-sufficiency of the national economy has been sold to people only by isolated dictators, like the ruling dynasty in North Korea, for example, or once upon a time by Slobodan Milošević in Serbia.
The world has no doubts about what Putin and his army have been doing in Ukraine, because only a week after their attack, the world recognised that it was an aggression against a peaceful and independent country, a member of the UN. Since Moscow did not recognise this, it has been expelled from important world forums. It has also been thrown out of the richest Western market for its most important products – oil and gas, and will never return to it. The fact that it has been trying to turn to large consumers in the East, primarily China and India, represents even more “bleeding”, because Russia sells at prices two or three times lower than in the global market.
The Russian people have been paying a year of war with hundreds of thousands of lives, and with prisons full of those who dared to oppose the war, even with a blank sheet of paper. It has also been paying with the general exodus from the country, mostly comprising educated experts who will not return home as long as the threat of mobilisation hangs over their heads. Probably not even after that.
Russia remains a country of desperate people, who still massively support their leader and his murderous adventure, because they are afraid of him and at the same time fascinated by his mystical project of “historical Russia”. They pay for that support with their heads, poverty and rejection from the world as a morally alienated nation.
The Russian leadership has been concerned with preserving the spoils gained over decades of looting their own people and national resources, because they have been losing the war. The generals have been accused of treason by criminals who were allowed to set up private armies to wage wars around the world on behalf of the Kremlin.
Billionaires applaud the leader under whom they got rich, when he says that Russia is not giving up on its course of conquest. Between the applause, they give each other the evil eye because they know very well that the day of collapse will come and they will begin to settle accounts with each other over the division of what is left of Russia.
In Putin’s last speech, on the anniversary of the attack on Ukraine there was no talk of appeasement. Even if there had been such words, who could believe them after everything that has happened?
Instead, a new invasion has been prepared, on weak Moldova, where Russia left the seeds of its attack 30 years ago, under the name of Transnistria. The situation is the same in the Balkans. Russia has been provoking a conflict between Serbs and Albanians, and preparing a sniper assassination on the leader of Serbia, who has been seeking peace, compromise and the final closure of the frozen conflict.
Putin’s Russia is a dangerous outlaw that threatens everyone around it. Finland and Sweden quickly realised this and renounced their carefully guarded “family” legacy of neutrality and joined NATO, as the only protection against the raging thug in the neighbourhood. Russia under Putin will not end the murderous campaign against Ukraine by itself. It will be forced to do so by a military defeat from the Ukrainian army defending its country and its people from invaders. Russia has already engaged 97% of its military potential, thus exposing another big lie – the one about the omnipotence of its army.
With each new defeat, it will become even more aggressive. It will destroy Ukrainian cities and commit crimes, and its war commanders will be even more enraged because the trials for what they did in Bucha, in Mariupol, and everywhere in Ukraine loom over their heads. If they stay alive.
To the horror of Putin and the Kremlin, the world has not been divided, but united around the idea of helping Ukraine as the only way to stop the biggest anti-civilizational war campaign since Hitler. The past year has shown that the outcome will be the same as it was 80 years ago. Unfortunately, until that day, many more victims of this murderous project will fall.
These victims will be the price of this. There will be no speeches and applause in the Kremlin, nor at the Luzhniki stadium at this time next year, or any time after. For Russia, the second anniversary of February 24 will be the anniversary of defeat, silence, repentance and justice for the victims.