On October 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Valdai International Discussion Club’s 19th annual plenary session in Moscow. His lengthy speech, after eight months of Russia’s war on Ukraine, basically accused the United States and its European allies of trying to dominate the world.
It also contained multiple falsehoods or distortions about the war, U.S. aims and Russia’s past rogue behavior, some of which Polygraph.info previously examined. The following is some of what Putin said, and context from our prior fact checks.
Statement: “At one time, the Nazis reached the point of burning books, and now the Western ‘guardians of liberalism and progress’ have reached the point of banning Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky.
“The so-called ‘cancel culture’ and in reality – as we said many times – the real cancellation of culture is eradicating everything that is alive and creative and stifles free thought in all areas, be it economics, politics or culture.”
Context: In fact, actual legal prohibitions against free speech in Russia far exceed anything seen in the West. Russia has a so-called “gay propaganda” law – which effectively bans the LGBT+ community from promoting their rights and culture.
In Russia, the internet is highly censored. Independent media have been forced to close to avoid criminal prosecution for reporting truthfully about the Ukraine war. Russians can be prosecuted for the vague offense of “offending religious feelings.”
It is illegal to question the official narrative of the Soviet Union regarding the Second World War. Russians can be jailed for 15 years for simply calling Russia’s war in Ukraine a “war” and not Putin’s preferred term, a “special operation.”
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Statement: “Global power is exactly what the so-called West has at stake in its game. But this game is certainly dangerous, bloody and, I would say, dirty. It denies the sovereignty of countries and peoples, their identity and uniqueness, and tramples upon other states’ interests.”
Context: In fact, in attacking its peaceful neighbor Russia denied Ukraine’s sovereignty, the identity and uniqueness of its people, and their interests. From Russian state TV pundits calling for Ukrainian children to be drowned to Russia’s systematic attacks on civilian targets, Putin is the one playing the “bloody game.”
The United Nations has counted 6,374 civilians killed (2,488 men, 1,700 women, 167 girls, and 201 boys, as well as 34 children and 1,784 adults whose sex is yet unknown). Those numbers are undercounts; many more have died. U.N. investigators and news media have accused Russian troops of voluminous war crimes, including summary executions, sexual violence and torture.
- Burn the Ukrainian Children? Genocidal Rant is Now Mainstream Russian Propaganda
- Russia Unleashes ‘Missile Terror’ on Ukrainian Civilians, Falsely Claims Military Targets
- Latest U.N. Casualty Counts for Ukraine
Statement: “I will not speak about NATO’s expansion to Ukraine, which was absolutely unacceptable to us, and everyone knew that but simply disregarded our security interests. Yet another attempt we made late last year failed again. We were told to shove it, to be quiet and … Alright, I will not say this in so many words, but they just ignored us.”
Context: In fact, there was no action plan for Ukraine to join NATO, and before 2014, when Russia clandestinely invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea, Ukraine was legally prohibited from seeking NATO membership. In any case, Ukraine is an independent state and has a right to secure its own security interests. Moscow’s muted response to Finland and Sweden seeking NATO membership as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine undermines Putin’s expansion fears.
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Statement: “What stance has the ‘civilized’ West adopted? If you are democrats, you are supposed to welcome the natural desire for freedom expressed by billions of people, but no. The West is calling it undermining the liberal rules-based order. It is resorting to economic and trade wars, sanctions, boycotts and color revolutions, and preparing and carrying out all sorts of coups.
“One of them led to tragic consequences in Ukraine in 2014. They supported it and even specified the amount of money they had spent on this coup.”
Context: Ukraine’s Maidan uprising was a popular revolt, not a coup. Ukraine’s pro-Russian president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, had rejected a European-brokered agreement to revise Ukraine’s constitution. Protests had turned violent, with scores of deaths. Under political pressure, Yanukovych ultimately resigned and fled Kyiv, then was voted out by a majority in Ukraine’s parliament who claimed he’d abandoned his office.
Statement: “So they committed a coup d'etat – but people in Crimea or in Donbas refused to recognize it, and that eventually led to today’s tragic events. Why couldn’t the so-called West fulfill the agreements that were reached in Minsk?”
Context: The people in Crimea and Donbas had nothing to do with this Russian aggression against those Ukrainian provinces after Yanukovych fled. Russian soldiers wearing uniforms without insignia entered Crimea in March 2014, took over the parliament building, raised Russian flags and installed a pro-Kremlin leader by force. Russia’s ex-military intelligence officer Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, a “self-defense” commander in Crimea and later commander of separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, admitted in a 2015 interview that Crimean parliament members were herded into a chamber at gunpoint and forced to support the annexation.
That vote to join Russia had no merit in international law. Strelkov also admitted there would have been no war in Donbas without his intervention (further fueled by the clandestine deployment of Russian troops and weapons systems).
- Musk’s Ukraine Peace Poll Fails on Its Portrayal of Crimean History
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Statement: “They [the West] always seek to aggravate matters, which is nothing new, either. This includes … the destabilization of the global food and energy markets.”
Context: In fact, Russia has blocked grain exports from Ukraine (and continues to disrupt a deal to allow Black Sea shipments), while the United States has been the world’s biggest contributor of global food aid for decades. Western economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine war exempt food. In fact, Russia has used its oil and gas to pressure Europe, and because of the war, European Union members are weaning themselves from Russian supplies.
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Statement: “Over a thousand years, Russia has developed a unique culture of interaction between all world religions. There is no need to cancel anything, be it Christian values, Islamic values or Jewish values.”
Context: In fact, Russia routinely persecutes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other nontraditional religious minorities. Russia’s vaguely defined “extremism” law has been used to go after nonviolent religious activity, targeting believers with fines, detention and criminal prosecution.
Statement: “We see the complicated demographic, political and social processes taking place in Western countries. This is, of course, their own business. Russia does not interfere in such matters and has no intention of doing so. Unlike the West, we mind our own business.”
Context: Russia is occupying parts of Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. Russia deploys mercenaries to Africa, intervened militarily in Syria — where it launched thousands of airstrikes — that often targeted civilian areas and infrastructure. Russia was accused of plotting a coup to overthrow the pro-Western government of Montenegro and has carried out multiple assassinations or attempted assassinations, including with military grade nerve agents and plutonium. Russia interfered extensively in the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections. The country is known to be a prolific, malicious hacker of computer networks.
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Statement: “Of course, we have incurred costs, above all, losses associated with the special military operation … But there are enormous acquisitions and what is happening now, will, without any doubt, ultimately – I want to emphasize this – will ultimately be beneficial for Russia and its future.
“What are these acquisitions about? They are about the strengthening of our sovereignty across all areas, primarily in the economic sphere. Not long ago, we ourselves were concerned about becoming some kind of semi-colony where we are unable to do anything without our Western partners.”
Context: By “enormous acquisitions,” Putin apparently refers to his attempted annexation of roughly 15% of Ukraine’s territory through sham referendums carried out under military occupation in September. These fake votes in four provinces were condemned as illegal and invalid at the United Nations.
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