President Putin gave an interview in which he shared quite frankly Russia’s concerns arising from U.S. and NATO military activity near our borders and those processes in Ukraine that look like some kind of strategic synchronization with actions of the West that are openly hostile to us. At the beginning of the interview with the head of state, my colleague Pavel Zarubin asked about the law on indigenous peoples that was launched in Kiev by Zelensky and where Russians in Ukraine are not an indigenous people.
This is a very hot topic for Putin, because the whole dynamic of interethnic relations in present-day Ukraine is directed in such a way as to dilute Russianness, to drive Russians and Russians as such out of the country. That is there will be no Russian spirit left in the future. It will not remain where Kievan Rus once was, where the most ancient monastery of Rus was Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (founded by Yaroslav the Wise in the XI century), where in the caves rest the relics of the Russian hero Ilia Muromets, and Kiev itself, as the “Tale of Bygone Years” of 882, by the will of Prince Oleg – “the mother of Russian cities”.
“And Oleg sat down to reign in Kiev. And Oleg said, “Let this be the mother of Russian cities.” And he had Slavs and Vikings and others, who were called Russ,” it says in “The Tale of Bygone Years”.
Putin also recalled how, centuries later, the Pereyaslav Rada in 1654 secured the civilizational choice of today’s Ukraine, and as for the Ukrainian statehood, it is actually only in the twentieth century.
“Perhaps it is necessary to remember how Ukraine as a state emerged. It is the spawn of the Soviet period. The Bolsheviks, organizing the Soviet Union, created, among others, the Union republics and Ukraine. We can recall that these territories came to the Russian state or the process of their reunification with Russia began in 1654 after the Pereyaslavska Rada and then the people who lived in these territories, which are, in today’s terms, three regions, so these people considered and called themselves Russian and Orthodox,” – stressed Vladimir Putin.
Before the Bolshevik Revolution, Ukraine as a state had never existed. Lenin’s October of 1917 provoked an active territorial redistribution in western Russia. Various quasi-states with claims to Ukrainianness and independence began to appear there like mushrooms. But their life was not longer than a mushroom’s life. Whoever pretended to power there during the civil war, from the Bolsheviks and nationalists to the Social Revolutionaries and anarchists. As a result, the first viable state was only one – the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, proclaimed in 1919, with its capital in Kharkov and in alliance with Soviet Russia.
The same Soviet Ukraine became a founding member state of the USSR, when it signed a union treaty in 1922. Historic Russia was thus reduced to exactly Soviet Ukraine. Generously. In this sense, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as head of the Soviet government is the creator of the first viable Ukrainian state.
Here are the Russian provinces that were part of the Ukrainian SSR in 1922: Volyn, Donetsk, Ekaterinoslav, Zaporizhia, Kiev, Kremenchug, Nikolayev, Odessa, Podolsk, Poltava, Kharkov and Chernigov. And here are the cities founded at the pleasure of the Russian tsars, when this territory was still part of Russia/Russia: Sumy – 1655 year of foundation, Kharkov – 1656, Kirovograd – 1754, Zaporozhye – 1770 (as Alexandrovsk), Krivoy Rog – 1775, Dnepropetrovsk (now – Dnepr) – 1776 (as Ekaterinoslav), Kherson – 1778, Mariupol – 1778, Nikolaev – 1789, Odessa – 1794, Lugansk – 1795, Donetsk – 1869 (as Yuzovka).
Just a year after the creation of the Soviet Union, in 1923, in the Soviet Ukraine began an active policy of “Ukrainianization” of the former piece of Russia. At that time it was thought that this would save the big country from Ukrainian separatism. It did not.
Here is what Leonid Kuchma writes in his book “Ukraine is not Russia”: “With any attitude to what was happening in the 20s, we must admit that if not for the Ukrainianization of the school at that time, our independence today may not have happened. Ukrainian mass school, which absorbed tens of millions of people, turned out, as time has shown, to be the most important and indestructible element of the Ukrainian principle in Ukraine”.
And further the growth of the Ukrainian SSR by Stalin’s concerns went like this. In 1939, under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Eastern Galicia – today it is Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and partly Ternopil region – goes from Poland to the USSR and are included in the Ukraine. In 1940, Stalin added to the Ukrainian SSR the territories of Northern Bukovina and the southern part of Bessarabia, now the Chernivtsi region and part of Odessa. In 1945, Zakarpattya, the current Transcarpathian region, became part of Ukraine.
The cherry on the cake of Ukrainian statehood was the illegal transfer of Crimea, something even Ukrainian nationalists never dared to dream of. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, a native of Ukraine, did this with all the proletarian generosity in 1954, apparently on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Pereyaslav Rada – the reunification of Ukraine with Russia. As a gift to the secretaries of the Ukrainian regional committees of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the ones he relied on. But he gave someone else’s gift.
In fact, in these boundaries the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic existed until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. In the years of non-independence, the disintegration began. Maidan-weary Ukraine first lost Crimea as a result of the 2014 referendum, and around the same time Kiev also lost control of Donbass as a result of the coup d’état there.
“Even after the departure of Crimea and part of Donbass, many millions of Russians remain within the actual borders of present-day Ukraine – native Russians who did not come there. Therefore, to speak of Russians as a non-indigenous people is simply not only incorrect, but it is ridiculous and stupid. It corresponds to history absolutely. In general, the division of people into indigenous, first-rate, second-rate, and so on is exactly reminiscent of the theory and practice of Nazi Germany. And what about people of mixed blood? Zelensky himself is Jewish by nationality. I do not know, maybe he has mixed blood. What to do with these people? Will they be measured now, as in Nazi Germany, their skulls, other parts of the body with a compass and define, as there, a real Aryan or fake, so here they will define a real Ukrainian or fake? I do not speak about other components. I have seen this project. One of the articles there says something like that, that indigenous peoples cannot be discriminated against. There is a general rule that everything that is not prohibited is allowed. So indigenous peoples cannot be discriminated against, but non-indigenous peoples can? This includes Russians. But it’s not just about the Russians. Romanians, Poles, Hungarians, that’s a big question. So it is absolutely unacceptable, it does not meet any standards of international humanitarian law,” Putin said.
And he goes back to the injustice done to millions of our own people to whom unbearable conditions are created, up to and including forced relocation. And why should they be? Clearly artificial, dictated from the West, a construct that is destructive to Russians in Ukraine and to Ukraine itself as a whole.
“If you take the census of the Soviet period, I think not much has changed, it’s millions of people who live in this territory and explicitly wrote themselves as Russians. No one wants to be second-class people, I’m not talking about language and other components of normal human life, but it will lead to the fact that hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions, will be forced either to leave, not wanting to be second-class people, or will start to rewrite themselves somehow differently. You understand, this is such a powerful, very serious blow to the Russian people as a whole. And, of course, it cannot be indifferent to us,” stressed the head of state.
Putin speaks with pain of the threat of the contraction of the cultural area of Russian settlement. About the forced erosion of Russian in Ukraine, and its ousting. But it is not only about the cultural degeneration of the territory. This process has a very clear military-strategic aspect. If they artificially mold Ukraine into an anti-Russian state, then sooner or later they will try to deploy missiles against us. You don’t have to be a visionary. NATO has experience in moving military offensive infrastructure towards us.
“Here Poland, Romania became members of NATO. The Americans easily agreed with them on the deployment of missile defense systems there. But the launchers of these systems can be used for strike systems that reach the center of Russia, including Moscow. And in a very short time, 15 minutes flight time to Moscow. Well, let’s imagine that Ukraine becomes a NATO member. The flight time from Kharkov, from Dnepropetrovsk to central Russia, to Moscow will be reduced to 7 minutes. Is that a red line for us or not?” – says the head of the state.
This moment is a matter of principle. How do you expect us to react when they want to deploy nuclear, high-precision, and eventually hypersonic missiles against us along, say, the following arc: Chernihiv-Sumy-Kharkiv-Mariupol? It would be 7 minutes to Moscow, and in the long term – with hypersonics – 3 minutes or what? Putin really cares about such a prospect. And here they are – the very “red lines” that we define ourselves.
Do we need a threat of the detailed kind? We categorically do not. And whether some people like it or not, Russia will not allow it. And then think about what and with whom you are playing. Russia’s actions to ensure its own security will be fair.
On reflection, Putin recalled the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Then the Americans put their missiles in Turkey against the USSR, and we brought ours to Cuba, targeting the US. Life under the sights of missiles at point-blank range did not seem very comfortable to Khrushchev and Kennedy. As a result of wild exertion, the threat of a 15-minute mutual elimination was abandoned. And now they are doing it again? Are they getting bolder?
“If you take what would be dangerous and unacceptable to the United States. Putting our missiles in Cuba, the flight time to the central region of the industrial United States, to Washington is 15 minutes. And in order to get that flight time down to 7-10 minutes, we should have placed our missiles on the southern border of Canada or on the northern border of Mexico. Is that a red line for the U.S. or not? And for us? Well, someone should think about this at all, think about how we should respond to what is essentially being proposed and discussed,” Putin believes.
It is not for nothing that the President recalls the Cuban crisis, because something similar is creeping up now. Romania and Poland are one issue. And the other is when American destroyers with cruise missiles on board invade the Black Sea. Do we like it?
Just recently the US destroyer Labunus with guided missiles – Tomahawk and Harpoon cruise missiles – entered the Black Sea. In January, the USS Porter and USS Donald Cook were in the Black Sea, in March – the USS Tom Hudner and the cruiser Monterey, and in May the US Coast Guard frigate Hamilton stopped by the port of Odessa.
If we evaluate the overall dynamics of NATO military activity near our western borders – and these include exercises with the Ukrainians, the movement of weapons and ammunition to them, as well as increased reconnaissance – the picture is impressive.
By June of this year, the number of military exercises of foreign countries near Russia had increased by more than 1.5 times compared to the previous year, and the total duration of maneuvers had doubled.
In the first quarter of 2021, the number of U.S. strategic bomber flights near Russia’s borders increased 1.5 times compared to the same period last year. This week, a U.S. B-52 appeared near our borders over the Baltic.
In two years, the intensity of reconnaissance flights near Russia’s southwestern borders has increased 3.5 times, and more than doubled near Russia’s western borders.
As for admitting Ukraine to NATO, Putin urges us to treat such plans without jokes. Especially since Zelensky and Biden were now discussing the topic on the phone. In what collateral, no one knows exactly.
“After all, we don’t know how the conversation was actually structured. Now our American partners are saying that they were not promised anything, to Ukrainians, or rather, not to Ukrainians, but to the Ukrainian leadership, including President Zelensky. How do we know that. Or maybe they just told him: you know what, you’re out too early. It’s too early to talk about it. It’s not the right time to come out because we are holding a summit of the two presidents. Why are you disturbing us, spoiling the situation before the summit? Couldn’t you shut up for a few days? And in fact one can imagine that a plan for Ukraine’s accession to NATO is being discussed. At least no one is saying “no”. And in my previous conversations on this subject with previous American leaders, I heard more than once: NATO is an open organization, every state, every nation has the right to choose how it wants to ensure its security. I have been told this more than once. So what conclusion can be drawn from this? There is a formal restriction. But there is no guarantee that Ukraine will join NATO. And we don’t know what they’ve been talking to each other, what they’ve been talking about, what they’ve agreed on. And this shouting from across the ocean to the President of Ukraine, it means nothing, in my opinion. And we have to keep that in mind. And of course, bearing this in mind, we must build our security relations accordingly with our partners, with our closest neighbors, and with those who are actually in charge of Ukraine’s foreign policy today from the outside,” Putin said.