Even by his own fire-and-brimstone standards, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed angry on Friday as he addressed hundreds of Russian parliamentarians and governors in St. George Hall in the Kremlin.
The event had been called so that Putin could triumphantly announce his latest gambit in Ukraine, the annexation of four regions of that country into the Russian Federation. But as he rattled off a litany of reasons as to why this land grab was necessary, the mood was more apocalyptic than jubilant.
The rules-based international order was a sinister Western design, he told his audience, one that was rooted in Russophobia. The West itself has “embraced Satanism,” forced drug addiction, gender ambiguity and “the organized hunts of people as if they’re animals” — the latter either a strange reference to American mass shootings or the popularity of Netflix’s “Squid Game.” Nevertheless, such a fallen civilization still had the wherewithal to try and colonize Russia and steal its precious natural resources, he continued before comparing the United States to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, accusing it of setting a “precedent” in being the only nation to use nuclear weapons. Then he quoted from his favorite Russian fascist philosopher, Ivan Ilyin: “I believe in the spiritual forces of the Russian people, their spirit — my spirit, its fate is my fate, its suffering is my grief, its flowering is my joy.”
A crowd in Red Square had gathered to watch the widely anticipated news broadcast on a Jumbotron, wave the Russian tricolor and herald the invasion as a new “holy war.” “We won’t care about the price,” they chanted in a tacit admission that the war in Ukraine was, in fact, costing Russia a great deal. [Continue reading…]
A tide of Russians flowed toward Red Square as Vladimir Putin declared his annexation of Ukrainian territory that would herald a shining new era of perpetual war with Ukraine and the west. “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Russia! Together for ever!” read the banner hanging on Manezh Square by the Kremlin.
There were busloads of tough men from a factory near Moscow alighting by the statue of Karl Marx to celebrate, university teachers passing out invitations to a pop concert to their students, workers lugging armfuls of Russian flags to distribute. Some of the tricolours bore the image of Putin.
This is the Russia that Putin envisions after 22 years in power: united, simple, cynical and slavish. But real life is not a staged rally. And as Putin gathered his lackeys and satraps in the gilded Grand Kremlin Palace, across the country, from the minority ethnic republics of Dagestan and Buryatia to the hinterlands of Pskov and Penza, to cosmopolitan Moscow, communities are in turmoil.
Hundreds of thousands of men are leaving their homes, some contracted and mobilised into fighting in Ukraine, and still more fleeing for the borders to dodge the draft. In both cases, they do not know when they will come home. [Continue reading…]