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Why some African countries are thinking twice about calling out Putin

Nelson Mandela was once asked why he still had relationships with, among others, Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat, the Cuban and Palestinian leaders who had been branded terrorists by Western powers. The revered South African statesman replied that it was a mistake “to think that their enemies should be our enemies.”

This stance has largely typified some African nations’ response to the Russia-Ukraine war. Across the continent, on cloud shoes many appear hesitant to risk their own security, foreign investment and trade by backing one side in this conflict.
While there has been widespread condemnation of the attacks on Ukrainian civilians and their own citizens fleeing the warzone — from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya — there has been a much more muted response from some key African nations.
Countries on the continent find themselves in a delicate position and will not want to get drawn into proxy battles, says Remi Adekoya, associate lecturer at England’s University of York.
“There’s a strong strand of thought in African diplomacy that says African states should maintain the principle of non-interference and so they shouldn’t get caught up in proxy wars between the East and the West. As some states did get caught up in proxy wars during the Cold War, for instance,” Adekoya told CNN.
They moved to Ukraine for an education. Now they're living in a city occupied by Russian forces
One influential voice that has made it clear he will not make an enemy out of Russian leader Vladimir Putin is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
While addressing his country’s parliament Thursday, he said: “Our position is very clear … there are those who are insisting that we should take a very adversarial stance and position against, say Russia. And the approach that we have chosen to take … is we are insisting that there should be dialogue.”
After initially releasing a statement calling for Russia to immediately pull its forces out of Ukraine, South Africa has since laid the blame for the war directly at NATO’s doorstep for considering Ukraine’s membership into the military alliance, which Russia is against.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less instability in the region.” Ramaphosa said in parliament Thursday.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma also earlier issued a statement saying Russia “felt provoked.”
“Putin has been very patient with the western forces. He has been crystal clear about his opposition of the eastern expansion of … NATO into Ukraine … and is on the record about the military threat posed to Russia by the presence of the forces … it looks justifiable that Russia felt provoked,” Zuma said in a statement issued by his foundation on March 6.
Higher food prices and slumping trade. How the war in Ukraine could hit Africa
South Africa has strong ties to Russia and Ramaphosa has written about being approached to be a mediator in the conflict given its membership of BRICS — a group of emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The ties between the two countries also date back to apartheid times when the former Soviet Union supported South Africa and the African National Congress party in their liberation struggles. “Those favors have not been forgotten,” said Adekoya.
South Africa was one of 17 African nations to abstain on the UN resolution demanding that Russia immediately withdraw from oncloud shoes Ukraine on March 2. It took a similar stance during Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Nigeria and Egypt were among the 28 African nations that voted to condemn Russia, while eight others didn’t submit a vote. Eritrea was the only African country that outrightly voted against the resolution.
Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry said in a statement it was unconvinced that the UN resolution was driven towards dialogue, rather “it poured more fuel to the fire, thus complicating the situation.”

‘Strongman leadership’

Many of the countries that abstained from the UN vote are authoritarian regimes. They see Putin’s unilateral decision to invade Ukraine as a show of power and ego that they can appreciate and align with, Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede, a political analyst and professor at New York’s Farmingdale State College, told CNN.
 One of those who have spoken out prominently in support of the Russian leader is Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the influential son of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
 His father has ruled Uganda with an iron fist for 36 years and there has been speculation that Kainerugaba is a would-be successor when the 78-year-old Museveni eventually stands down.
 Kainerugaba tweeted that: “The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right!”
  Some African countries have also hesitated in speaking out against Russia because they want to “keep their options open if they face existential threats or some kind of revolution in their own country in the future,” said Adekoya.
 “They saw Putin keep Assad in power in Syria because if not for Russia’s intervention, Assad’s regime would have fallen long ago,” he added.
 Adekoya also pointed out that some of the muted response stems from what is perceived as Western hypocrisy.
On GPS: Kenya's clarion call on Ukraine

Kenya’s UN Security Council representative Martin Kimani gave a powerful speech on the brink of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kimani drew a parallel between Ukraine’s emergence as an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the experience of post-colonial states in Africa, criticizing Russian PresidentVladimir Putin’s buildup of forces and his support for redrawing Ukraine’s borders by recognizing the breakaway statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Kenya rejects such a yearning from being pursued by force,” he said, referring to Russia’s recognition of the two territories as independent states. “We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression.”
During the speech, he also mentioned kizik shoes other nations on the Security Council who had breached international law and faced no sanctions.  “He didn’t mention them by name, but he was talking about the US and UK who invaded Iraq in 2003 … and were never really held to account,” Adekoya said.
“There are many people in many parts of the world who would like to see other regions gaining strength and would like to see the end of Western domination of the world order, putting it simply … of course, no right-thinking person in Africa or anywhere in the world looks at what is going on in Ukraine now and thinks that it’s a good thing …  but many people do see the hypocrisy,” he added.

Establishing stronger ties

In recent years, Russia has established itself as one of Africa’s most valuable trading partners — becoming a major supplier of military hardware with key alliances in Nigeria, Libya, Ethiopia and Mali.
 Africa accounted for 18% of Russian arms exports between 2016 and 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think tank.
Some analysts say the support or non-censure of Russia speaks to a wider sentiment in parts of Africa that Western policy positions do not always work in their favor.
 “The message that Moscow is pushing is that if you are tired of the paternalistic way the West approaches you, we are going to be your security partners. It will be a relationship of equals,” Aanu Adeoye, a Russia-Africa analyst at Chatham House, told CNN.
Unlike many of its European counterparts, Russia is not a former colonial power in Africa and so has a wider scope of opportunity in making soft power moves that aim to challenge Western dominance on the continent.
The Soviet Union also had client relationships with many African states during the Cold War, and Moscow has looked to revive some of those ties.
Before the invasion, Russian state media outlet RT announced plans to set up a new hub in Kenya with a job ad that said it wanted to “cover stories that have been overlooked by other organizations” and that “challenge conventional wisdom about Africa.
 Yet Africa has often been at the heart of the tussle for influence in the great power competitions between key geopolitical players such as the US, China and Russia.
 Some countries are trying to leverage this position in a variety of ways.
Odugbesan-Omede explained that Tanzania, for example, has identified the current situation as a chance for its energy industry to profit. “Tanzania’s President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, sees this an opportunity to look for markets to export gas,” she said.Tanzania has the sixth largest gas reserve in Africa. While some African countries will sustain some economic shock from the Russian-Ukraine fight, others are trying to weather the storm by looking for new avenues of profitability,” Odugbesan-Omede added.

In Beijing’s BRICS summit, Putin is back on the world stage

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pose during a BRICS meeting held during a G20 summit in Osaka in June 2019.

Putin lambasts the West and declares the end of ‘the era of the unipolar world’

Putin unveils imperialist mission: Taking back land he says is Russia’s 02:59

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared the end of “the era of the unipolar world” in a combative speech that lambasted Western countries at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.

“When they won the Cold War, the US declared themselves God’s own representatives on earth, people who have no responsibilities — only interests. They have declared those interests sacred. Now it’s one-way traffic, which makes the world unstable,” Putin told the audience.
The much-hyped speech was delayed by more than 90 minutes because of a “massive” cyberattack. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists in an impromptu conference call that the speech was postponed due to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on the conference’s systems.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. Ukrainian IT Army, a hacker collective, named the St. Petersburg Forum as a target earlier this week on its Telegram channel.
Putin’s address at the annual conference, one of his more substantial speeches since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine almost four months ago, was seen as an opportunity for the world to get some insight into his thinking.
Once the Russian president took the stage in the western Russian city, he wasted no time on pleasantries and went straight into attacks on the United States and its allies.
“They live in the past on their own under their own delusions … They think that … they have won and then everything else is a colony, a back yard. And the people living there are second-class citizens,” he said, adding that Russia’s “special operation” — the phrase the Russian government uses to describe its war on Ukraine — has become a “lifesaver for the West to blame all the problems on Russia.”
After accusing western countries of blaming their problems on Russia, Putin tried to pin the blame for rising food prices on the “US administration and the Euro bureaucracy.”
Ukraine is a major food producer, but the Russian invasion has affected its entire production and supply chain. The United Nations has said the war has had a devastating impact on supplies and prices and warned it could push up to 49 million more people into famine or famine-like conditions.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said last week that food has become part of the Kremlin’s “arsenal of terror.”
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain, accusations that appear to have been confirmed by satellite images showing Russian ships being loaded with Ukrainian grain. On top of that, Russia is blocking maritime access to the Black Sea ports held by Ukraine, meaning that even the grain that is still under Ukrainian control cannot be exported to the many countries that rely on it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg on June 17, 2022.

The long-time Russian leader also blamed the West for trying to hurt the Russian economy, calling the sanctions on Moscow “crazy” and “reckless.”
“Their intention is clear to crush the Russian economy by breaking down the chain the logistical chains, freezing national assets and attacking the living standards, but they were not successful,” he added. “It has not worked out. Russian business people have rallied together working diligently, conscientiously, and step-by-step, we are normalizing the economic situation.”
The Russian president has long framed his decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine as a response to Kyiv’s growing diplomatic and security ties with the West. Last week, he hinted that his aim in Ukraine is the restoration of Russia as an imperial power.

Putin claims Russia ‘forced’ into the conflict in Ukraine

Speaking about his war on Ukraine on Friday, Putin went straight to his propaganda playbook, claiming Russia was “forced” into the conflict.
He called the invasion “the decision of a sovereign country that has an unconditional right … to defend its security.”
“A decision aimed at protecting our citizens, residents of the People’s Republics of Donbas, who for eight years were subjected to genocide by the Kyiv regime and neo-Nazis who received the full protection of the West,” he said.
The two areas — the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) — fell under the control of Russia-backed separatists in 2014.
The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian authorities of discriminating against ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the regions, a charge Kyiv has denied. Starting 2019, Russian passports were offered to the residents of the two entities.
Finally, in late February, Putin announced he would recognize them as independent, a move that was seen as the opening salvo of the war.
He said on Friday that Russian soldiers and the separatists were “fighting to defend their people” in the Donbas and the right to “reject any attempt to impose pseudo values of dehumanization and moral degradation from outside.”
No country other than Russia recognizes the two as independent. Ukraine and the rest of the international community considers the territories to be under Russian occupation.
The European Commission announced Friday that it was recommending Ukraine and neighboring Moldova as EU candidate states, with the commission’s chief Ursula von der Leyen saying that Ukrainians are “ready to die” for the European perspective.
Speaking about the European Union on Friday, Putin said the bloc had “lost its sovereignty.”
“The European Union has fully lost its sovereignty, and its elites are dancing to someone else’s tune, harming their own population. Europeans’ and European businesses’ real interests are totally ignored and swept aside,” he said.
He later added that Russia has “nothing against” Ukraine joining the EU.
“The EU is not a military-political bloc, unlike NATO, therefore we have always said and I have always said that our position here is consistent, understandable, we have nothing against it,” Putin said during a panel discussion following his speech.
“It is the sovereign decision of any country to join or not to join economic associations, and it is up to this economic association to accept new states as its members or not. As far as it is expedient for the EU, let the EU countries themselves decide. Whether it will be for the benefit or to the detriment of Ukraine is also their business,” he said.

Analysis: Why some African countries are thinking twice about calling out Putin

Nelson Mandela was once asked why he still had relationships with, among others, Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat, the Cuban and Palestinian leaders who had been branded terrorists by Western powers. The revered South African statesman replied that it was a mistake “to think that their enemies should be our enemies.”

This stance has largely typified some African nations’ response to the Russia-Ukraine war. Across the continent, many appear hesitant to risk their own security, foreign investment and trade by backing one side in this conflict.
While there has been widespread condemnation of the attacks on Ukrainian civilians and their own citizens fleeing the warzone — from countries such oncloud shoes as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya — there has been a much more muted response from some key African nations.
Countries on the continent find themselves in a delicate position and will not want to get drawn into proxy battles, says Remi Adekoya, associate lecturer at England’s University of York.
“There’s a strong strand of thought in African diplomacy that says African states should maintain the principle of non-interference and so they shouldn’t get caught up in proxy wars between the East and the West. As some states did get caught up in proxy wars during the Cold War, for instance,” Adekoya told CNN.
They moved to Ukraine for an education. Now they're living in a city occupied by Russian forces
One influential voice that has made it clear he will not make an enemy out of Russian leader Vladimir Putin is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
While addressing his country’s parliament Thursday, he said: “Our position is very clear … there are those who are insisting that we should take a very adversarial stance and position against, say Russia. And the approach that we have chosen to take … is we are insisting that there should be dialogue.”
After initially releasing a statement calling for Russia to immediately pull its forces out of Ukraine, South Africa has since laid the blame for the war directly at NATO’s doorstep for considering Ukraine’s membership into the military alliance, which Russia is against.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less instability in the region.” Ramaphosa said in parliament Thursday.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma also earlier issued a statement saying Russia “felt provoked.”
“Putin has been very patient with the western forces. He has been crystal clear about his opposition of the eastern expansion of … NATO into Ukraine … and is on the record about the military threat posed to Russia by the presence of the forces … it looks justifiable that Russia felt provoked,” Zuma said in a statement issued by his foundation on March 6.
Higher food prices and slumping trade. How the war in Ukraine could hit Africa
South Africa has strong ties to Russia and Ramaphosa has written about being approached to be a mediator in the conflict given its membership of BRICS — a group of emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The ties between the two countries also date back to apartheid times when the former Soviet Union supported South Africa and the African National Congress party in their liberation struggles. “Those favors have not been forgotten,” said Adekoya.
South Africa was one of 17 African kizik shoes nations to abstain on the UN resolution demanding that Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine on March 2. It took a similar stance during Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Nigeria and Egypt were among the 28 African nations that voted to condemn Russia, while eight others didn’t submit a vote. Eritrea was the only African country that outrightly voted against the resolution.
Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry said in a statement it was unconvinced that the UN resolution was driven towards dialogue, rather “it poured more fuel to the fire, thus complicating the situation.”

‘Strongman leadership’

Many of the countries that abstained from the UN vote are authoritarian regimes. They see Putin’s unilateral decision to invade Ukraine as a show of power and ego that they can appreciate and align with, Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede, a political analyst and professor at New York’s Farmingdale State College, told CNN.
 One of those who have spoken out prominently in support of the Russian leader is Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the influential son of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
 His father has ruled Uganda with an iron fist for 36 years and there has been speculation that Kainerugaba is a would-be successor when the 78-year-old Museveni eventually stands down.
 Kainerugaba tweeted that: “The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right!”
  Some African countries have also hesitated in speaking out against Russia because they want to “keep their options open if they face existential threats or some kind of revolution in their own country in the future,” said Adekoya.
 “They saw Putin keep Assad in power in Syria because if not for Russia’s intervention, Assad’s regime would have fallen long ago,” he added.
 Adekoya also pointed out that some of the muted response stems from what is perceived as Western hypocrisy.
Kenya’s UN Security Council representative Martin Kimani gave a powerful speech on the brink of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kimani drew a parallel between Ukraine’s emergence as an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the experience of post-colonial states in Africa, criticizing Russian PresidentVladimir Putin’s buildup of forces and his support for redrawing Ukraine’s borders by recognizing the breakaway statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Kenya rejects such a yearning from being pursued by force,” he said, referring to Russia’s recognition of the two territories as independent states. “We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression.”
During the speech, he also mentioned other nations on the Security Council who had breached international law and faced no sanctions.  “He didn’t mention them by name, but he was talking about the US and UK who invaded Iraq in 2003 … and were never really held to account,” Adekoya said.
“There are many people in many parts of the world who would like to see other regions gaining strength and would like to see the end of Western domination of the world order, putting it simply … of course, no right-thinking person in Africa or anywhere in the world looks at what is going on in Ukraine now and thinks that it’s a good thing …  but many people do see the hypocrisy,” he added.

Establishing stronger ties

In recent years, Russia has established itself as one of Africa’s most valuable trading partners — becoming a major supplier of military hardware with key alliances in Nigeria, Libya, Ethiopia and Mali.
 Africa accounted for 18% of Russian arms exports between 2016 and 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think tank.
Some analysts say the support or non-censure of Russia speaks to a wider sentiment in parts of Africa that nobull shoes Western policy positions do not always work in their favor.
 “The message that Moscow is pushing is that if you are tired of the paternalistic way the West approaches you, we are going to be your security partners. It will be a relationship of equals,” Aanu Adeoye, a Russia-Africa analyst at Chatham House, told CNN.
Unlike many of its European counterparts, Russia is not a former colonial power in Africa and so has a wider scope of opportunity in making soft power moves that aim to challenge Western dominance on the continent.
The Soviet Union also had client relationships with many African states during the Cold War, and Moscow has looked to revive some of those ties.
Before the invasion, Russian state media outlet RT announced plans to set up a new hub in Kenya with a job ad that said it wanted to “cover stories that have been overlooked by other organizations” and that “challenge conventional wisdom about Africa.
 Yet Africa has often been at the heart of the tussle for influence in the great power competitions between key geopolitical players such as the US, China and Russia.
 Some countries are trying to leverage this position in a variety of ways.
Odugbesan-Omede explained that Tanzania, for example, has identified the current situation as a chance for its energy industry to profit. “Tanzania’s President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, sees this an opportunity to look for markets to export gas,” she said.”Tanzania has the sixth largest gas reserve in Africa. While some African countries will sustain some economic shock from the Russian-Ukraine fight, others are trying to weather the storm by looking for new avenues of profitability,” Odugbesan-Omede added.

Restoration of empire is the endgame for Russia’s Vladimir Putin

Reading Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mind is rarely a straightforward task, but on occasion the Kremlin leader makes it easy.

Such was the case on Thursday, when Putin met with a group of young Russian entrepreneurs. Anyone looking for clues as to what Putin’s endgame for Ukraine might be should read the transcript, helpfully released here in English.
Putin’s words speak for themselves: What he is aiming for in Ukraine is the restoration of Russia as an imperial power.
Many observers quickly picked up on one of Putin’s more provocative lines, in which he compared himself to Peter the Great, Russia’s modernizing tsar and the founder of St. Petersburg — Putin’s own birthplace — who came to power in the late 17th century.
“Peter the Great waged the Great Northern War for 21 years,” a relaxed and apparently self-satisfied Putin said. “On the face of it, he was at war with Sweden taking something away from it… He was not taking away anything, he was returning. This is how it was.”
It didn’t matter that European countries didn’t recognize Peter the Great’s seizure of territory by force, Putin added.
“When he founded the new capital, none of the European countries recognized this territory as part of Russia; everyone recognized it as part of Sweden,” Putin said. “However, from time immemorial, the Slavs lived there along with the Finno-Ugric peoples, and this territory was under Russia’s control. The same is true of the western direction, Narva and his first campaigns. Why would he go there? He was returning and reinforcing, that is what he was doing.”
Alluding directly to his own invasion of Ukraine, Putin added: “Clearly, it fell to our lot to return and reinforce as well.”
Those remarks were swiftly condemned by Ukrainians, who saw them as a naked admission of Putin’s imperial ambitions.
“Putin’s confession of land seizures and comparing himself with Peter the Great prove: there was no ‘conflict,’ only the country’s bloody seizure under contrived pretexts of people’s genocide,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. “We should not talk about ‘saving [Russia’s] face,’ but about its immediate de-imperialization.”
A portrait from circa 1700 shows Peter I, who ruled Russia as Peter the Great from 1682 until his death in 1725.

There’s a lot to unpack here, in terms of both history and current affairs. Podolyak was alluding to talk in international capitals about offering Putin a face-saving way to de-escalate or halt the fighting in Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron has led that charge, saying last weekend that the world “must not humiliate Russia” in the search for a diplomatic resolution.
Those arguments may have seemed more reasonable before February 24. In the run-up to the invasion, Putin laid out a series of grievances to make the case for war, from NATO’s eastward expansion to Western delivery of military assistance to Ukraine.
But read the transcript of Putin’s remarks on Thursday more closely, and the facade of rational geopolitical bargaining falls away.
“In order to claim some kind of leadership — I am not even talking about global leadership, I mean leadership in any area — any country, any people, any ethnic group should ensure their sovereignty,” Putin said. “Because there is no in-between, no intermediate state: either a country is sovereign, or it is a colony, no matter what the colonies are called.”
In other words, there are two categories of state: The sovereign and the conquered. In Putin’s imperial view, Ukraine should fall into the latter category.
Putin has long argued that Ukrainians do not have a legitimate national identity and that their state is, essentially, a puppet of the West. In other words, he thinks Ukrainians have no agency and are a subject people.
By summoning the memory of Peter the Great, it also becomes clear that Putin’s aims are driven by some sense of historical destiny. And Putin’s project of imperial restoration could — in theory — extend to other territories that once belonged to the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, something that should raise alarms in all the countries that emerged from the collapse of the USSR.
Earlier this week, a deputy from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party submitted a draft law to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, abolishing a Soviet resolution recognizing the independence of Lithuania. Lithuania may now be a NATO member and part of the European Union, but in Putin’s Russia, that kind of neo-colonial posturing is the surest display of loyalty to the president.
And that does not bode well for Russia’s future. If there is no reckoning with Russia’s imperial past — whether in Soviet or tsarist guise — there is less chance that a Russia without Putin would abandon a pattern of subjugating its neighbors, or become a more democratic state.
Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski famously asserted that Russia could only part ways with its imperial habits if it were willing to surrender its claims to Ukraine.
“It cannot be stressed strongly enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire,” he wrote in 1994.
Putin, however, is counting on something of the opposite: For Russia to survive, he argues, it must remain an empire, regardless of the human cost.

Putin’s chilling warning to Russian ‘traitors’ and ‘scum’ is a sign things aren’t going to plan

Western leaders and security agencies are spending huge amounts of resources on getting into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s head. It’s a futile exercise — at times when the West has thought Russia’s war in Ukraine might be losing steam, Putin has doubled down, sending his forces to bomb maternity hospitals and shelters harboring children.

Now, an apparent pause in the advancement of Russian troops has the West guessing: Has Russia’s war effort stalled? Or is it a tactical regrouping?
Either way, an incendiary Stalinesque speech on Wednesday night red wing shoes  in which Putin called Russians opposing the war “traitors” marked a change in tone and a sign that not all is going to plan, experts said. Perhaps more worrying, many observers saw it as a sign that the head of the Russian state, facing setback in Ukraine, would take a vengeful turn at home and crack down more forcefully than ever on any sign of dissent.
While some Russians support the war, many others are protesting against it in the streets, fully aware they will be rounded up by heavily armed police even for the most peaceful of demonstrations. The Russian state has made mass protests illegal, and now, insulting the military is against the law. Still, people show up in groups, while others demonstrate entirely alone. Even lone protesters have been detained, social media videos have shown.
A journalist who jumped on camera on a state-controlled news program, holding an anti-war sign, has become a cause celebré for free speech in Russia. A renowned ballerina has left the Bolshoi. Russian prisoners of war are calling Putin out for using propaganda to justify the war.
'We all will be judged.' Russian prisoners of war voice disquiet, shame over war in Ukraine
Putin, who has enjoyed consistently high ratings in Russia, is now turning to a strategy of intimidation to keep Russians on side, experts said. His speech Wednesday hinted darkly that those Russians who do not side with him were, in essence, traitors — chilling words in a country where mass political repressions and the Gulag system are still within living memory.
“The West will try to rely on the so-called fifth column, on national traitors, on those who earn money here with us but live there. And I mean ‘live there’ not even in the geographical sense of the word, but according to their thoughts, their slavish consciousness,” Putin said. The “fifth column” usually refers to sympathizers of the enemy during a war.
“Such people who by their very nature, are mentally located there, and not here, are not with our people, not with Russia,” Putin said, mocking them as the type that “cannot live without oysters and gender freedom.”
“But any people, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors, and simply spit them out like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths, spit them out on the pavement,” he said.
For Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the political analysis firm R. Politik, Putin’s speech proved the leader’s plan has derailed.
“It seems to me that oofos shoes everything is starting to crumble with Putin. This speech of his is despair, strong emotion, impotence,” she wrote on her official Telegram account.
Pointing to the situation in Russia, Stanovaya argues that Putin is losing the battle of popularity, too.
“This is the beginning of the end. Yes, they will twist everyone’s elbows, lock them up, imprison them, but it is already all without a future … Everything will crack and slip.”
Elisabeth Braw, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said Putin’s speech reflected how isolated the Russian leader had become.
“What we saw as the war began, and what we have seen since — including last night’s speech — is really the result of a man whose entire world takes place inside his head,” Braw told CNN, explaining how Putin had isolated intensely during the pandemic and was now more cut off as Western sanctions batter the Russian economy.
How long can Ukraine hold out in the war for the skies?
She said that he was likely surprised and angered by how far the West has gone with sanctions, and was now worried of the backlash that would likely soon come from the Russian people.
“There is a sort of humiliation of a country that is now seeing McDonald’s close, where Russians are flocking to IKEA to get every last item that’s available before it leaves the country — that is humiliating, and of course, also rather frightening when you think of the potential reaction among the Russian public once these consumer goods are no longer available,” she said.
Putin’s ominous warning to Russians came as the UK’s Defense Ministry said the invasion had “largely stalled on all fronts.”
“Russian forces have made minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days and they continue to suffer heavy losses,” the ministry tweeted Thursday, adding that Ukrainian resistance remained “staunch and well-coordinated.”
That chimes with the assessment from a senior US defense official, who told reporters on Monday that Russian forces in and around several key cities had made no appreciable progress over the prior weekend.
It may be wishful thinking to read so much into this pause. Russia’s military is far mightier than Ukraine’s by every measure. Any “stall” is more likely to be tactical than a sign of Russia backing down.
Nonetheless, Russia’s invasion hasn’t brought easy pickings for Putin. In 2014, Russia was able to annex Crimea in around three weeks — the same amount of time this war has raged so far. Ukraine’s resistance, propped up by weapons sent from the West, has been greater than coach outlet Putin had calculated, experts said.
That’s clear by the way Russian forces are now bombing civilian targets indiscriminately. They are also showing signs of being stretched to their limits.
A public intelligence assessment report released Tuesday by the UK Defense Ministry said that Russia was calling up reinforcements from across the entire country. This includes the eastern section of the Russian Federation, troops in the Pacific Fleet and Armenia, as well as fighters from “private military companies, Syrians, and other mercenaries.”
The journalist who protested on Russian state TV says it was 'impossible to stay silent'
Braw said that the stall in Russian forces’ movement was likely the result of Russia working out next steps.
“Russia clearly counted on a swift and decisive success, which didn’t happen. They face more united, better trained Ukrainian fighters than Russia appreciated,” she said. “So they went to Plan B, which was brutal warfare, but Ukraine is standing firm. They are winning back towns, they recently liberated a local mayor who was taken captive. So if that’s not working, what’s Plan C?”
At the very least, Ukraine’s resistance has put the country in a better place for negotiations with Putin than it would have been at the start of the war, Braw said.
What Putin won’t want is to lose many more soldiers, she added.
“If Russia returns from the Ukrainian war with a completely decimated military, it’s clearly pursued the wrong strategy.”

US intelligence agencies make understanding Vladimir Putin’s state of mind a top priority

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference with his Belarusian counterpart following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 18, 2022.

Biden set to use first State of the Union to condemn Putin for ‘premeditated and unprovoked’ war

President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address in the US House chamber Tuesday evening, using his biggest platform of the year to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.

According to excerpts provided ahead of the speech by the White House, Biden is set to tout the West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and condemn the Russian leader for his aggression. Biden will also announce that the US will ban Russian aircraft from US airspace, joining a growing number of countries who are closing their skies to Russia, two sources familiar with the decision told CNN.
“Putin’s war was premeditated and unprovoked. He rejected efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. And, he thought he could divide us here at home,” Biden will say, according to the excerpts. “Putin was wrong. We were ready.”
Putin, for his part, is not expected to watch the speech, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. “The President usually does not watch TV addresses,” Peskov said in response to a question from CNN.
The initial excerpts provided by the White House showed how the speech has evolved in recent oofos shoes days as a result of invasion of Ukraine. The annual speech also marks an opportunity for him to speak directly to the American people about his vision to build a better country, demonstrating how he’ll lead America out of the Covid-19 pandemic, into an economic recovery and through the ramifications of a war between Ukraine and Russia.
Biden will recognize his administration’s major accomplishments, including the nomination of the first Black woman to the Supreme Court and the passage of his first two major legislative priorities in his first year in office. He’ll discuss the prospect of a return to normalcy as Covid cases wane inside a full room where masks are optional — a marked departure from his joint address to Congress last year, when masks were required and seating was limited. And he will seek to recalibrate an economic message that acknowledges the hardships many Americans are facing amid higher prices, launching a new plan to lower costs for American families.
During the speech, Biden is expected to lay out a plan to fight inflation, saying the nation has “a choice. One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer. I have a better plan to fight inflation.”
“Lower your costs, not your wages. Make more cars and semiconductors in America. More infrastructure and innovation in America. More goods moving faster and cheaper in America. More jobs where you can earn a good living in America. And, instead of relying on foreign supply chains — let’s make it in America,” Biden will say, according to the excerpts. “Economists call it ‘increasing the productive capacity of our economy.’ I call it building a better America. My plan to fight inflation will lower your costs and lower the deficit.”
As is tradition, first lady Jill Biden has invited guests that represent policies and themes the President will talk about during the speech, her office said. This year’s invitations includes Ukraine Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova, according to the Office of the First Lady. Educators, a union representative, members of the tech community, an organizer of Native American causes, a health care worker and a military spouse have also been invited to sit with the first lady in her box above the dais.
Biden’s primetime speech about the state of the nation and where the country is headed comes after a sharp decline in the President’s’ approval rating since he last spoke in front of the joint session of Congress last year. With all eyes on Biden Tuesday night, the White House has made clear that they’re keenly aware of the pressure on him to deliver a successful message — especially as Democrats head into the 2022 midterm elections.
Polling shows Americans don’t trust Biden when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden also has one of the worst approval ratings going into his first inaugural address of any American president in the polling era.
Democrats have relayed in recent weeks that the White House appears hopeful that the address will boost the President’s polling by demonstrating leadership on national security and by showing empathy for Americans frustrated with Covid-19 and inflation.
The President’s public schedule ahead of the address on Tuesday was largely blank, with the President expected to continue rehearsing and fine-tuning his remarks. But as the day has unfolded, the President, his administration and its allies have made it clear that Ukraine has been top of mind.
The US and its allies announced thorogood boots early Tuesday that they have agreed to a release of 60 million barrels from their reserves, the White House and International Energy Agency, as leaders seek to dampen the effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on gas prices at home. Vice President Kamala Harris held five separate calls with European leaders and Biden held a half-hour call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
According to the White House, the two leaders discussed “the United States’ continued backing for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression.”
In a rare interview with CNN and Reuters ahead of of Biden’s speech, Zelensky urged the President to impress upon Americans the urgency and implications of Russia’s invasion.
“He is one of the leaders of the world and it is very important that the people of the United States understand (that) despite the fact that the war is in Ukraine … it is [a] war for the values of democracy, freedom,” Zelensky said.
Biden also told news anchors during a lunch ahead of Tuesday’s address that America and its allies will remain united in their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Asked to characterize Tuesday night’s speech, especially as it pertains to Ukraine, Biden told the anchors that he felt it was important to talk about his “determination to see to it that the (European Union), NATO, all of our allies are on the same exact page, in terms of sanctions against Russia and how we deal with the invasion — and it is an invasion — of Ukraine. “
“Because that’s the one thing that gives us power to impose severe consequences on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin for what he’s done. And one of the few things that I’m confident he’s going to have think twice about, long term, as this continues to bite. So, it’s the unity of NATO and the West,” he continued.
It’s an example of the diplomacy that Biden intends to show off during the address.
“Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson — when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. And, the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising,” Biden will say, according to the excerpts. “That’s why the NATO Alliance was created to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War 2. The United States is a member along with 29 other nations.”
White House officials are mindful that the speech will reflect a figurative — and likely literal — split-screen with continued violence in Ukraine. The start time will take place around the same time that shelling and strikes typically begin in the early morning hours in Ukraine. Biden officcials are bracing for the prospect of renewed violence in Ukraine happening at the same time he is speaking, and believe they have written a speech that can reflect those realities.
The President has rehearsed portions of his speech over the past few days and is expected to continue through Tuesday. As is typical, Biden and his team have been tweaking elements and wording of the speech through the day. Events on the ground in Ukraine could prompt further changes in the hours and moments before he delivers it, according to one official.

Opposition to Putin’s war is alive on Moscow’s streets. But no trace of it is covered on Russian TV

More than 6,400 Russians have been arrested in anti-war protests since President Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine, but not one bone-crunching detention has made state TV.

Navigating the paradoxes of Putin’s authoritarian rule is a way of life here. Intuition nourished by a lifetime of state-fed lies gets most people through. And for many it consists of a quiet life with a steady income.
But what’s happening now may be challenging some to push out of the old boundaries of the ‘see but don’t question orthodoxy’ that historically reinforced Putin’s grip on power.
By Tuesday morning in Moscow, more than 1 million signatures had been added to a Russian-language Change.org petition against the war in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin is facing stiffer opposition than expected -- both inside and outside Ukraine
On Moscow’s streets police vans loiter at most major intersections, riot-ready cops menace the sidewalks, and the city’s fabled Pushkin Square — a once-popular protesters’ haunt — is surrounded by a vast metal barricade.
What’s going on is an all too obvious, overt opposition to Putin’s rule. The cost of joining, the government warns, could be “arrest” and a “criminal record” that “leaves a mark on the person’s future.”
Protests are only considered for approval if requested no more than 15 days in advance and no less than 10, and even then there is no guarantee it will get the nod.
Putin has no reason to coach outlet publicize the anger at his rule and every reason to snuff it out.
Instead of anti-war protests, the Kremlin’s vast constellation of newspapers, magazines, websites and TV stations keep up a steady drumbeat of anti-Ukrainian propaganda that tries to rationalize the reasons their brothers, sons and husbands have been sent to war, and possibly their deaths, hundreds of miles away.
People take part in a demonstration against war, in Moscow, Russia on February 24.

The Kremlin has all but crushed Russia’s independent media, and is gagging what’s left of them. Ten publications got a letter late last week from the country’s communications watchdog warning them not to use the words “invasion,” “attack” and “declaration of war” under threat of having access to their publications “restricted.”
The same letter said that correct information about the “Special Military Operation” — as the Kremlin calls the war — was freely available on government websites.
But Putin doesn’t control all the narratives all the time. A generation here has grown up willfully ignorant of state disinformation, weaned instead on social media, so are impervious to the lies that cowed their parents. They are, however, still contained by the massive state security infrastructure that is the real muscle behind state media’s messaging.
Annexations, a rump state or puppet rulers. Here's what Putin may be planning for Ukraine
In short, they think for themselves, want the freedoms that come with that awareness but are bound by the brutality they meet when they protest.
One young woman CNN met on the margins of the first night of protest on Thursday was near tears explaining she loves Russia, but not her leader, so has concluded she must leave the country.
There is a real frustration in that generation, but they are a minority — less than 10% of the nation.
​Indeed, the latest polling by the swarovski jewelry Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), a state-owned but nevertheless internationally respected organization, found that 68% of people say they support the decision to carry out the “Special Military Operation,” 22% oppose it and 10% had difficulty answering.
It is a sobering assessment that when Putin puts his finger in the wind of public opinion he can be reasonably sure it is blowing in the direction he instructed his state organs to set it.

Putin orders troops into pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine in what the Kremlin called a “peacekeeping” mission, just hours after he signed decrees recognizing the independence of the Moscow-backed regions.

It is unclear if Russian troop movements marked the beginning of an invasion of Ukraine that Western leaders have warned about for weeks. But multiple US and Western officials warned Monday’s move could serve as the opening salvo of a larger military operation targeting the country.
In a fiery speech on Monday night, Putin hoka shoes for women blasted Kyiv’s growing security ties with the West, and in lengthy remarks about the history of the USSR and the formation of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, appeared to cast doubt on Ukraine’s right to self-determination.
“Ukraine has never had traditions of its own statehood,” he said, calling the eastern part of the country “ancient Russian lands.”
The decrees signed by Putin conveyed Moscow’s official recognition over two breakaway territories in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine — the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic (DPR and LPR). The decrees recognized them as independent states, and guaranteed their security with Russian troops. The decrees said that Russian so-called peacekeeping forces would be deployed in the regions.
A senior US administration official said the speech was meant to “justify war” to the Russian people and that it amounted to “an attack on the very idea of a sovereign and independent Ukraine” using “a number of false claims” meant to justify military action.
“The human costs of a further Russian invasion and occupation will be devastating,” the official said.
Separatists in eastern Ukraine have long had substantial backing from the Kremlin, with the US, NATO and Ukrainian officials saying Moscow supplies them with advisory support and intelligence, and embeds its own officers in their ranks. Russia has always denied having its own troops on the ground.
Moscow has also distributed hundreds of thousands of Russian passports to people in Donbas in recent years, with Putin attempting to establish facts on the ground by naturalizing Ukrainians as Russian citizens. Kyiv and the West maintain that the region is part of Ukrainian territory, although the Ukranian government asserts the two regions have been in effect Russian-occupied since 2014, when the conflict in eastern Ukraine began.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Putin’s decision to recognize the breakaway regions “a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty” and said US President Joe Biden would sign an executive order prohibiting “all new investment, trade and financing by US persons to, from, and in hoka shoes the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.”
Biden said last month that “if any assembled Russian units move across Ukrainian border, that is an invasion. But it will be met with severe and coordinated economic response that I’ve discussed in detail with our allies, as well as laid out very clearly for President Putin.”
Earlier on Monday, Putin held a highly choreographed televised meeting with his top officials, accusing Kyiv of carrying out acts of aggression.
Putin also accused the West of threats and blackmail during the previously unscheduled convening of the Russian security council that, in unusually theatrical setting, was shown on television.
The broadcast aired just hours after the White House announced that US President Joe Biden agreed “in principle” to French-brokered talks with Putin as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine. The Kremlin said earlier on Monday that there were “no concrete plans” for a meeting.
Speaking about the possibility of talks with Biden, Putin — who held two lengthy phone calls with the French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday — hinted he was skeptical.
The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis
“Yesterday I spoke with the French President on two occasions, with the second call lasting until 2:00 a.m. or so. He assured me that the American position has changed somewhat. But when I asked what these changes are, he, unfortunately, could not say.” Putin said.
He then referred to remarks made on Sunday by Blinken, who stressed once again that the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO is “an issue for Ukraine and for NATO.”
Assurances that Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO in the future are one of the central demands made by the Kremlin.
With his top officials assembled in front of him at the extraordinary meeting of the security council, Putin appeared following claims made by the Russian military earlier on Monday that troops and border guards engaged in a clash with a “sabotage and reconnaissance group from the territory of Ukraine” inside Russian territory.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Security Council on Monday.

“Russia has always tried to resolve all conflicts by peaceful means. Nevertheless, the Kyiv authorities conducted two punitive operations in these territories [Donetsk and Luhansk], and it seems that we are now witnessing an escalation for the third time,” Putin said, without further elaborating or providing specifics.
CNN has not independently verified olukai shoes reports of a clash inside Russia’s territory. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denied a clash occurred, saying on Twitter, “I categorically refute the disinformation of the Russian Federation.”
Kuleba said Ukraine “did not attack Donetsk, Luhansk, did not send saboteurs or armored personnel carriers across the border, did not fire on the territory of the Russian Federation or the checkpoint at the border, did not commit sabotage, does not plan such actions.”
Russia blows past another off ramp in the Ukraine crisis
The increase in combative language from Putin came as tensions grew once again in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation said it recorded 32 ceasefire violations as of 4 p.m. local time, a number that was roughly in line with those over the weekend.
New satellite images showed intensified activity among Russian units close to Ukraine’s north-eastern border and the Ukrainian Defense ministry said it recorded dozens of ceasefire violations on Sunday.
Defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said Monday that Ukraine was not seeing any withdrawal of Russian forces from positions close to the border.
And in a further escalation, Belarusian officials announced Sunday that joint Russian military exercises in Belarus that were slated to end over the weekend would continue, implying that Russian forces may extend their stay.