Putin’s speech in fact-checking report: There can be no doubt about a NATO attack on Russia

Putin’s fact-checking speech
There can be no doubt about the NATO attack on Russia

By Sebastian Hold and Uladzimir Zihacho

In a long-awaited “Victory Day” speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin justifies war against Ukraine — even if he doesn’t mention the word “war” or the name of the country that was attacked. Below, ntv.de checks Putin’s alleged reasons for the military attack to make sure they are true. One thing is clear: None of these putative reasons legitimize a Russian invasion of another country under international law.

The claim: Western countries are preparing to “invade our country, including Crimea.”
Putin announces that his country carried out the “first strike against aggression”. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence of Western preparations for an attack. Apart from the fact that Russia, as a nuclear power, is difficult to attack, there was also no significant reinforcement of Western forces on the western flank of Russia. After the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO deployed forces to the Baltic states to stave off an attack, but they were not suitable for an attack on Russian territory. A few EU countries such as Lithuania as well as the USA, Great Britain and Canada have provided training materials and capabilities to the Ukrainian Army in recent years. However, Ukraine’s military successes since the Russian invasion show how targeted these efforts are to defend Ukraine, not attack.

Claim: Ukraine plans to take back Crimea.
There is no evidence for this. While the military conflict in Donbass has been ongoing since 2014, after the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine made no attempts to regain the peninsula. Like almost all countries around the world, the government in Kyiv still considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine and is making political efforts to reintegrate the peninsula. However, since the annexation, there have been no military attacks or provocations by Ukraine. On the other hand, Russia has repeatedly escalated the conflict. In November 2018, for example, Russian Coast Guard ships fired on three Ukrainian Navy boats en route to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Several sailors were injured. The boat crew was captured and released only ten months later as part of a prisoner exchange.

The allegation: Russia’s efforts to offer mutual security guarantees were ignored.
For weeks and months, Russia openly prepared its offensive and concentrated its forces in eastern and northern Ukraine and Belarus. Although these movements were described as maneuvers, they were understood as a threat: either NATO would comply with the Kremlin’s demands or there would be war. However, the United States and the European Union tried to find a negotiated solution. Chancellor Olaf Schultz, US President Joe Biden, and French President Emmanuel Macron repeatedly spoke with Putin at the beginning of the year to explore possibilities for a peaceful agreement. However, Western countries did not want to accede to Russian demands to recognize the annexation of Crimea, the demilitarization of Ukraine, and the eternal renunciation of the country’s membership in NATO under the threat of the Kremlin’s weapon – also because this sets a precedent for further revisionist ambitions. for Putin. Russia’s demand for NATO to withdraw its entire military infrastructure from Eastern Europe also runs counter to the security interests of the countries involved.

Allegation: Russia is fighting “Nazis” in Ukraine.
In his speech, Putin repeatedly drew parallels with the Soviet Union’s struggle against German occupiers during World War II. Troops in the Donbass and the Russian armed forces are now also fighting the “Nazis”. Putin did not explain who he meant exactly. For years, Russian state propaganda has claimed that the Ukrainian government is suppressing the rights of the Russian-speaking majority in Donbass and massacres Russian-speaking people. However, in recent years, Moscow has not provided any evidence of alleged genocide – a charge Putin has often raised but not repeated in his rhetoric – and has blocked research by international organizations or independent media in the region. Since the annexation of Crimea, Kyiv has passed a series of laws aimed at restricting the use of the Russian language on Ukrainian soil, citing suspicions that the Russian media in particular might want to further destabilize the country. This approach has also been criticized in the West as unhelpful. However, the Russian language is not prohibited in Ukraine. It is also true that right-wing extremists are also involved in the Ukrainian army. However, this is a small minority – militarily and more so in politics, where the nationalist or fascist parties have not achieved any major electoral successes and are not represented in Parliament.

Allegation: Martyrs burned alive in Odessa in May 2014.
On May 2, 2014, a few months after the European Square, violent riots broke out between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa. 48 people were killed and more than 200 others were injured. About 2,000 people gathered before a football match for the pro-Ukraine “unity march”. Among them were rioters and supporters of the National Organization for the Right Sector. About 300 armed pro-Russian activists attacked the march participants. A street fight broke out, six people died of their wounds. Then the pro-Russian activists withdrew to a nearby union building. Then the hostile groups threw Molotov cocktails at each other and fired shots on both sides. In the end, a fire broke out in the Guild Building, killing 42 people in the building. After the riots and the fire, Ukraine began criminal proceedings. A year and a half later, the Council of Europe criticized the investigations of the Ukrainian judiciary as ineffective and not independent. So far, no one has been prosecuted for the fire.

Allegation: Kyiv plans to re-acquire nuclear weapons.
Putin said Russia should also prevent Ukraine from acquiring nuclear weapons. Indeed, Ukrainian Ambassador Andrei Melnik, among others, raised such a possibility. In April 2021, he said on the Deutschlandfunk website that Kyiv “may also consider a nuclear situation” if his country was denied NATO membership. Melnik asked at the time: “Otherwise, how can we guarantee our defense?” But in truth, that was and still is unrealistic. Neither the United States nor NATO, whose support Ukraine relies on, advocate further proliferation of nuclear weapons. The day before the Russian attack on Ukraine, a spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Agency told the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel: “Our agency has found no evidence that declared nuclear materials in Ukraine have been diverted from the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

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