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Putin camouflages debunked falsehoods as ‘Ukraine peace plan’

A drone view shows damaged property, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Vovchansk, Kharkiv region, June 2, 2024. (United Assault Brigade of the National Police of Ukraine "Lyut"/Handout via REUTERS)
A drone view shows damaged property, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Vovchansk, Kharkiv region, June 2, 2024. (United Assault Brigade of the National Police of Ukraine "Lyut"/Handout via REUTERS)
Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Russian president

“As you know, in February and March 2022 our troops approached Kiev. … but there was no political decision to storm the city with three million people ...”

Putin camouflages debunked falsehoods as ‘Ukraine peace plan’.
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As leaders of 78 countries gathered in Switzerland for a Summit on Peace in Ukraine and preconditioning any peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv on Ukraine's territorial integrity, uninvited, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at the Kremlin presenting a different vision.

Putin demanded Ukraine’s surrender of its Russia-occupied regions and its NATO membership aspirations, thus accepting Moscow’s dominion. These are Russia’s conditions for peace, Putin said, in a speech loaded with disinformation and propaganda narratives he used over the years to justify the Russian aggression against Ukraine. reviewed eight of Putin’s claims, finding them false and misleading.

Putin: “Russia did not start the war. It was the Kiev regime that initiated hostilities, following the declaration of independence by residents of certain parts of Ukraine in accordance with international law, and continues to do so.”

Why that is false: Russia started the war against Ukraine in February 2014 with a covert invasion and consequent annexation of Crimea. In March 2014, armed Russian operatives infiltrated Ukraine's Donbas, instigating hostilities. By August 2014, Russia had deployed regular army units to support its special combat troops. On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Putin: “A large group of Ukrainian armed forces was preparing to launch a new offensive on Lugansk and Donetsk, of course, with ethnic cleansing and huge casualties, hundreds of thousands of refugees. We were obliged to prevent this catastrophe, to protect people, we could not make any other decision.”

Why that is false: None of international observers and investigative groups reported any evidence of Ukrainian government forces ever carrying out ethnic cleansing or mass atrocities targeting ethnic minorities. The opposite is true for Russia, which stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, genocide.

Putin’s claim of waging war to “protect people” and “prevent huge casualties” and refugee “catastrophe” is equally false. The United Nations reported that Russia’s war against Ukraine “triggered one of the fastest-growing humanitarian and displacement emergencies in recent history.” More than 3.5 million Ukrainians fled from the Russian occupation within the Kyiv-controlled cities and towns in Ukraine. More than 6.5 million Ukrainians sought refuge in foreign countries.

Russian air-and-ground strikes erased entire cities in eastern Ukraine, like Popasna, Mariupol, Avdiivka and many others.

Millions in Ukraine “face death and injury due to indiscriminate attacks and unexploded ordinance, and multi-sectoral needs brought on by destruction of housing, displacement, disrupted or overstretched public services,” the UN reported.

“After 28 months of war, the scale of humanitarian needs is vast. More than 32,000 civilian casualties, including 11,000 deaths, have been verified — but the real number is likely much higher,” the U.N. said.

Putin: “As you know, in February and March 2022 our troops approached Kiev. … but there was no political decision to storm the city with three million people...”

Why that is false: The Russian forces marched directly to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, reaching its outskirts in the first day of military invasion. Moscow reportedly expected to capture Kyiv within three days and secure control over Ukraine by May 9, which Russia celebrates as a WWII victory day. The battle for Kyiv continued from February 25 to April 2, 2022. Despite the heavy concentration of air and ground power, the Russian military faced strong resistance and suffered significant losses. By late March -- early April, Ukraine cleared the outskirts of Kyiv from the Russians, whose retreat revealing some of the most dramatic scenes of the war, including the massacre of civilians in the town of Bucha.

Putin: “They [NATO] effectively forgot about the promises made to the Soviet Union and later Russia in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the block would not accept new members.”

Why that is false: Since the day of its creation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had an “Open Door Policy” meaning that any state can join at will as long as it fulfills the membership requirements. NATO never changed that policy.

Neither the U.S. nor Europe have ever signed any treaty with Russia containing different provisions for NATO membership.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev confirmed in 2014 that the West never promised the Soviet Union that NATO would not expand to the East.

In 1997, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton declined to enter into a "gentlemen’s agreement" with Boris Yeltsin, then-Russian President stating that “no former Soviet republics would enter NATO” .

Putin: “The anti-Russia propaganda campaign, involving senior European politicians, is accompanied by speculation that Russia intends to attack Europe. … We all understand that these claims are baseless and serve only to justify an arms race.”

Why that is misleading: What Putin calls an “anti-Russian propaganda campaign,” is a response to Russia’s systematic saber rattling, including threats of nuclear strikes and promises to turn Western capitals into a “radioactive dust.”

In the two years since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin, his high-ranking officials, the Kremlin’s ideologists, top lawmakers, and state media propagandists threatened directly or indirectly at least 114 nuclear strikes on Western countries. draw the estimate from examining the Russian government and public sources from February 24, 2022, to March 13, 2024, and creating a database of Russia’s nuclear threats.

Putin: “[West] masterminded, organized and financed an armed coup [in 2014], clearly taking advantage of the difficulties and political infighting in Ukraine.”

Why that is false: There was no coup in Ukraine in 2014. The military played almost no role in the events, neither did it oust Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian President. Yanukovich abandoned his office and fled to Russia when facing mass protests over his sabotaging of Ukraine’s EU association agreement. Despite repeatedly propagating that the U.S. orchestrated the Maidan Revolution, Russia presented no credible evidence that the protesters were agents of the U.S. or any other foreign government.

Putin: “… Crimea, which, as you may know, was transferred from the RSFSR to Ukraine in 1954 with the violation of all norms of the law and procedures, even those in effect in the Soviet Union at that time.”

Why that is misleading: In 1954, Ukraine was part of Soviet Union – the Ukrainian SS Republic or USSR. What is now Russia was then called the Russian SFS Republic or RSFSR. Contrary to Putin’s claim, both republics consented to the transfer of the Crimean Peninsula (then Oblast) from Russia to Ukraine. The move lawful and in full accordance to the RSFSR's Constitution, argues Mark Kramer, the head of the Harvard University’s Davis School for Russian and Eurasian Studies. In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukrainian citizens, including Crimea residents, overwhelmingly voted for independence.

In 2008, Putin told the German broadcaster ARD that Crimea is Ukraine's "absolutely not disputed territory” and any suggestions of Russia planning to invade and annex Crimea were “provocative.”