“One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic.”Josef Stalin
Russia has launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, a European democracy of 44 million people, prompting a mass exodus of refugees.
For months, President Vladimir Putin denied he would invade his neighbor. In a pre-dawn TV address on 24 February, Putin declared Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist” because of what he claimed was a constant threat from modern Ukraine.
Build Up To Invasion
Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in 2014, after months of protests against his rule. Putin retaliated by seizing the southern region of Crimea.
Late in 2021, Putin began deploying big numbers of troops close to Ukraine’s borders, while repeatedly denying he was going to attack.
It is now clear Putin is seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government. Putin has put his nuclear forces on high alert, days after threatening the West with “consequences the like of which you have never seen” if it stands in his way.
Thousands of anti-war protesters in Russia have been detained. Independent Russian broadcasters have been taken off the air.
Reaction of The West
NATO countries have provided weapons and the EU, for the first time in its history, is buying and sending arms to Ukraine.
The West is targeting Russia’s economy, financial institutions and individuals in a number of ways.
(1) Cutting off key Russian banks from the international Swift payment network
(2) Shutting off airspace to Russian airlines
(3) Germany has halted approval of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas p;ipeline
(4) Russia’s state-run media Sputnik is banned across the EU
Putin studied law at Leningrad State University. After graduating in 1975, he worked as a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In 1991 he resigned to begin a political career. In 1996 he joined the administration of president Boris Yeltsin.
After the resignation of Yeltsin, Putin became president. Four months later Putin was electerd to his first term as president and was reelected in 2004.
As he was then constitutionally limited to two consecutive terms as president, Putin served as prime minister from 2008 to 2012. He returned to the presidency in 2012 in an election marred by allegations of fraud. In 2021 he signed into law constitutional amendments that would allow him to extend his presidency to 2036.
Under Putin’s leadership, Russia has shifted to authoritarianism. Political opponents are jailed, the free press is suppressed and there is a lack of free and fair elections.
In 2020, Putin signed a bill giving lifetime prosecutorial immunity to Russian ex-presidents.
In 1983, Putin married and had two daughters. In 2013, Putin got divorced and dated an Olympic gold medal gymnast with whom he is alleged to have had a daughter and twin sons.
Putin possesses a multi-billion-dollar fortune via successive ownership stakes in Russian companies. Former Russian Chess Grandmaster and current political activist Garry Kasparov said, “Putin conrols more money than any other individual in the history of the human race.”
Putin had hoped for a quick and decisive win. What he is getting is more like the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1979, a brutal mess. Despite all the Kremlins’s pre-war anti-Ukraine propaganda, about the only Russian who seems interested in winning this war is Putin himself.
Putin did not count on Ukraine’s heroic resistance. Putin also did not count on the West’s shutting off much of Russia’s economy from the world, nor for the West’s willingness to arm the defenders.
Photo by Bibi with Ukraine