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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine Wednesday evening, further escalating tensions that hit a fever pitch after Putin recognized two breakaway regions of the country, but he may have dropped some warning signs regarding an invasion back in July 2021.
Putin referred to centuries of Russian and Ukrainian history to claim that the idea of an independent Ukraine is part of an “anti-Russia” propaganda campaign tracing back to Russia’s geopolitical foes in Eastern Europe going back centuries. The Russian president concluded that Ukraine’s “true sovereignty” is “only possible in partnership with Russia.”
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“I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia,” he wrote. “Our spiritual, human and civilizational ties formed for centuries and have their origins in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories. … Together we have always been and will be many times stronger and more successful. For we are one people.”
Putin noted that “Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus, which was the largest state in Europe. Slavic and other tribes across the vast territory … were bound together by one language (which we now refer to as Old Russian), economic ties, the rule of the princes of the Rurik dynasty, and – after the baptism of Rus – the Orthodox faith.”
‘A big common country’
The Russian president noted that the name “Ukraine” emerged in written sources in the 1100s A.D., tracing back to the Old Russian world “okraina” (pheriphery). “And the word ‘Ukrainian’, judging by archival documents, originally referred to frontier guards who protected the external borders.” He used the term “Malorussia” (little Russia) to refer to Ukraine.
“Malorussians in many ways helped build a big common country – its statehood, culture, and science,” Putin wrote, noting that natives of Ukraine held major positions of leadership in the USSR.
Yet Russia’s historical enemies – Poland and Austria-Hungary – crafted narratives to separate Ukraine from Russia, Putin argued. He noted “the desire of the leaders of the Polish national movement to exploit the ‘Ukrainian issue’ to their own advantage.” Putin claimed that “there was no historical basis” for dividing Ukraine from Russia, so “conclusions were substantiated by all sorts of concoctions, which went as far as to claim that the Ukrainians are the true Slavs and the Russians, the Muscovites, are not.”
“In essence, Ukraine’s ruling circles decided to justify their country’s independence through the denial of its past,” Putin charged. “They began to mythologize and rewrite history, edit out everything that united us, and refer to the period when Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union as an occupation.”
‘A springboard against Russia’
“Step by step, Ukraine was dragged into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at turning Ukraine into a barrier between Europe and Russia, a springboard against Russia,” he claimed. “The owners of this project took as a basis the old groundwork of the Polish-Austrian ideologists to create an ‘anti-Moscow Russia’.”
Putin lamented what he described as Ukraine’s economic problems, claiming that they resulted from corrupt Ukrainian authorities “who waisted [sic] and frittered away the achievements of many generations,” separating Ukraine from Russia, even though they are “natural complementary economic partners.” He claimed that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians come to Russia to work, “and they find a welcome reception and support. So that’s what the ‘aggressor state’ is.”
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Putin also noted that the Grand Duchy of Lithuania “most significantly – was referred to in historical records as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Russia,” perhaps suggesting a justification for invading the Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – to bring them back into Russia.