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Putin says ‘war’ – aloud – instead of ‘special military operation’



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RIGA, Latvia — After nearly 10 months of war, but referring to the brutal invasion of Ukraine instead of “a special military operation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday finally called it a The first “war” caused an uproar among anti-war Russians who were prosecuted for merely challenging the Kremlin-approved rhetoric.

“Our goal is not to turn the flywheel of a military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war,” Putin said in a televised news conference after a government meeting on Thursday. Five. “This is what we are striving for.”

Exactly what Putin is pursuing has been a topic of much debate and amazement, especially in Ukraine, where thousands of people have been killed and cities razed, and in Western capitals. sent billions of weapons and economic aid to Kiev to help the country resist Russian aggression.

Putin has taken turns saying he is seeking to “de-fascist” Ukraine, “liberate” Russian-speaking regions in the southeastern part of the country and prevent NATO countries, especially the United States, from trying to destroy Russia. He denied wanting to conquer the country and overthrow the government, an assertion undermined by his failed attempt to invade and occupy Kyiv.

What Putin did not say until Thursday was that the fighting in Ukraine, whatever the goal, is, in fact, a “war”.

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Putin used the term “special military operation” in his announcement in the early morning hours of February 24, the day his full-scale invasion began. This seems to be an attempt to emphasize that what is to come will not seriously affect the lives of ordinary Russians. Instead, he sold the idea of ​​a limited campaign run by a handful of professional servicemen.

After days of anti-war protests in Russia and critical coverage of the last few remaining independent media outlets, the Russian authorities hastily suppressed the criticism and forced the use of a “military operation”. special” effectively by passing draconian legislation to ban “spreading fake news” and “discrediting” the military, essentially making it illegal to call war “war” .

Mass protests were quelled and many Russians fled the country for fear of prosecution. The few remaining activists who took to the streets to carry out the act of pickpocketing alone were immediately chased by the police and fined, some even held up a blank sheet of paper.

By October, Russian law enforcement had initiated nearly 5,000 administrative cases based on the new law, meaning defendants could potentially face hefty fines. And there have been more than a hundred criminal cases where those indicted faced sentences of up to 15 years in prison.

In early December, an opposition politician, Ilya Yashin, was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison on charges of “spreading false information” after he dissected Russia’s atrocities in the city. Bucha Street, near Kyiv, in an attempt to unmask the official. The Kremlin considers those reports to be staged or fabricated to smear Russia.

Yashin’s sentence is the harshest so far under the new law. In July, Moscow city lawmaker Alexei Gorinov was sentenced to seven years in prison on similar charges after he held a public meeting to observe a minute of silence for those who died in the war.

On Thursday, critics of Putin, and his war, reacted furiously to the president’s utterance of the word “war”.

“Alexei Gorinov was sentenced to seven years for calling war war at a meeting of the assembly of delegates,” tweeted Georgy Alburov, an exiled ally of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. “Vladimir Putin today also openly called the war his workplace war. So either release Gorinov or put Putin in jail for seven years.”

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Most independent media have been forced out of the country, and hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled from what the Kremlin calls “partial mobilization” that has broken Putin’s promise of a Quick and successful war will not affect the livelihood of civilians.

The laws were selectively enforced to target longtime Putin critics, while war advocates and propagandists on state television were allowed to criticize Russian military commanders. for heavy losses on the battlefield and even using the word war with impunity.

Nikita Yuferev, a city lawmaker from St. Petersburg, who has fled the country for his anti-war views but is still able to perform his official duties from afar, said on Thursday that he had written a complaint against Putin, asking the general public to Russia is investigating the president’s case. statement.

“No decree has ceased special operations and no war has been declared,” Yuferev tweeted. “Several thousand people have been prosecuted for such words about the war, so I have sent a request to the authorities to accuse Putin of spreading fake news about the military.”

The move is symbolic and will not be taken by law enforcement. But it highlights how selective prosecution has become the norm in the Russian justice system under Putin’s rule, with different standards for citizens depending on their level of support for the president. system.

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Pro-war Russian commentators have been allowed to issue harsh criticisms of the Russian military and its commanders for battlefield losses and other missteps, including the The mobilization of 300,000 new soldiers failed.

In his speech on Thursday, Putin rejected the US decision to supply Ukraine with the most advanced anti-aircraft weapons, Patriot missile systemwas officially announced by President Biden during the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington on Wednesday.

Putin described the move as an insignificant development. “Patriot is a rather old system and doesn’t work like our S-300,” said He, referring to Russia’s mainstay air defense system. “We will keep that in mind and there will be an antidote,” Putin said. “We will take down the patriots.”

Putin on Thursday also repeated the commonly made assertion that the United States and NATO are responsible for the conflict in Ukraine, saying: “It all started in 2014 after the coup provoked by the United States. “

When asked if he felt the “campaign” had gone on for too long, Putin replied with a Russian idiom about how little by little the big goals are being achieved – the latest indication that he had no plan to end the war he was now willing to call war. “The escalation of hostilities leads to unreasonable losses,” Putin said. “And as they say, ‘the hen pecks every seed.’”

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