Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the Kremlin today where he announced the annexation of portions of Ukraine in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia. In his speech he accused the West of being satanists and said that Russia wants to lead an anti-colonial movement to smash the West. He then formally announced the annexation of territory that Russia invaded and took by force. After the speech was over, the Associated Press reported that Ukraine had officially applied for membership to NATO. U.S. President Biden called the annexation illegitimate, promised to continue to support Ukraine, and announced new sanctions on Russia.
Putin’s speech and the annexation of these territories is the culmination of a war that began in 2014 when Kremlin-backed forces seized Crimea and pieces of eastern Ukraine.
"I want the Kyiv authorities and their real masters in the West to hear me, so that they remember this. People living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens. Forever,” Putin said in his speech, according to a translation from Reuters. “We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately end hostilities, end the war that they unleashed back in 2014 and return to the negotiating table. We are ready for this ... But we will not discuss the choice of the people in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. That has been made. Russia will not betray them."
In a 2005 speech, Putin told the world that the collapse of the Soviet Union “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” It was a theme he returned to in his speech announcing the annexation of the territories seized from Ukraine.
"As once before, after the Revolution, the borders of the Union republics were carved up from behind the scenes,” he said. “So the last leaders of the Soviet Union, contrary to the direct expression of the will of the majority of people in the referendum of 1991, destroyed our great country, confronting the people with a fait accompli. I admit that they did not fully understand what they were doing, and what consequences this would inevitably lead to in the end. But this is no longer important. There is no Soviet Union, the past cannot be brought back. And Russia today does not need it anymore. We are not striving for this."
Putin’s speech was ostensibly about the annexation of new territory into Russia, but he kept returning to the West. He blamed “Anglo-Saxons” for the destruction of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines without blaming a specific country. "Sanctions were not enough for the Anglo-Saxons: they moved on to sabotage,” he said, according to the Reuters translation. “It is hard to believe but it is a fact that they organized the blasts on the Nord Stream international gas pipelines, which run along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. In fact, they began to destroy the pan-European energy infrastructure. It is clear to everyone who benefits from this. Of course, he who benefits did it."
Putin also also made a veiled homophobic joke and talked about sex change operations during his speech, according to Financial Times Moscow Bureau Chief Max Seddon. He then accused the West of “Outright Satanism.”
“Putin [said] Russia wants to lead an ‘anti-colonial movement’ to liberate the world. ‘We need to turn this disgraceful page. Western hegemony will be smashed. This is inevitable. We must do this for our people, the great historical Russia,” Putin said, according to Seddon.
The speech included one reference to nuclear weapons, typical for Putin’s recent public statements. During several speeches in February, after the invasion, he made direct nuclear threats and put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert. In his speech announcing the “partial mobilization” of the Russian people on September 21, Putin accused NATO of using nuclear blackmail and said he would not hesitate to use his own nukes.
"To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for some components more modern than those of the NATO countries," he said in September. "And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff."
With this referendum Putin has expanded the territory which he has threatened to protect with nuclear weapons. He used the threat of nuclear war to do it. But he was quick, in his speech today, to point to America. "The U.S. is the only country in history that has ever used nuclear weapons. Creating a precedent, by the way,” he said.
The speech ended with Putin and the four Moscow-backed leaders of the territory Russia forcibly seized holding hands and chanting “Russia! Russia!” Minutes after the speech concluded, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a video where he announced Ukraine would be applying for membership to NATO.
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