As some of you know, Putin spoke at length with a group of Russian flight attendants. This is such an important statement that I asked one of our interpreters (thanks E.!) to subtitle the video. I am also posting the transcript below. In this exchange, Putin spells out in quite some details WHAT Russia is doing and WHY she is doing it.
PS: please press “cc” to see the English language captions
Putin explains the military situation and why Ukraine might lose its future
Translated and subtitled by Eugenia
My question concerns the current situation in Ukraine. We all support your actions and the special operation that is underway there. Naturally, the most important question, which, one way or another, all of us have asked ourselves, is why this special operation has started. Could it not have been avoided? Rationally, we do understand and support your actions, but as women we cannot help but worry: for our family, relatives, for those who are in Ukraine. We know that the civilians are not impacted. But nevertheless, tell us, reassure us: what are we to expect at the end of this road? What will be the end result of the military operation in Ukraine?
I will be brief but still will have to start, as they say, from “the center of the field”. I said about this at the start of the operation and also spoke about this before this decision has been made, a hard decision, without a doubt.
What is this about? The fact of the matter is that after the anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine, which, unfortunately, was strongly supported by the Western countries – let us face it. They do not even hide the fact that they have spent $5 billion on it, not to mention cookies given away on Maidan, and so on. And after that, instead of bringing the situation back on track, even if it had spiraled out of control, even if it had been the act of the overzealous locals – there is such legal term, i.e. planned one thing, but the result turned out to be something else – they still could have, and should have, returned the situation back onto the political track.
Furthermore, shortly before the coup, the foreign ministers of the three countries came to Kiev in 2014 and signed an agreement with the Ukrainian government acting as guarantors of this agreement to ensure that the situation would be developing in the political sphere. But nothing like that occurred. They organized a coup d’état and supported the perpetrators. What followed were the well-known events related to the Crimea and the southeast of Ukraine, Donbass, where people refused to support the coup. As we know, the Crimea made a decision; people came to vote in a referendum to return to the Russian Federation. Naturally, yes, naturally, we cannot but support that decision, al the more so, since they felt they were in danger from the nationalists and neo-Nazis. There is strong evidence that they were absolutely right in that.
Later, or, rather, in parallel, the events in Donbass were taking place. What have these events led to? People resisting the results of the coup were persecuted. Eventually, the new Kiev authorities initiated a military operation on that territory. They have conducted two large-scale punitive operations using of heavy weapons and combat aviation. They directly attacked Donetsk destroying the city squares with aviation, using tanks and artillery. Both these military campaigns failed. The Ukrainian army suffered defeat. After that, so-called Minsk agreements, or the Package of Measures, to use the official term, have been concluded. The agreements offered a path for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
We did everything we could to direct the events along this path, to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as to protects the interests of the people living in these territories. What did these people demand? Nothing but the basic things: the right to speak their mother tongue, i.e. the Russian, and maintain their traditions and culture. These were by no means extraordinary demands. But no. These territories were put under economic blockade; disconnected from the banking system; the supplies of food were stopped; the payments of the pensions and social assistance were suspended. Sometimes, some handouts were given, but in order to get those pensions and benefits a person had to cross the separation line.
Now listen. I will now say something that may sound rough but the situation compels me to say it. You know that occasionally in some regions packs of stray dogs attack people, injure or even kill them (this is a separate problem, and it is for the local authorities to deal with). But then these animals are poisoned or shot dead. But people of Donbass are not stray dogs. Approximately 13,000-14,000 people have been killed during these years. Over 500 children have been killed or injured. But what is particularly intolerable is that the so-called “civilized” West has preferred all these years to look the other way. All these years – 8 years! Eight years!
Moreover, lately the Kiev authorities started to say openly and publicly that they are not going to fulfill the Minsk agreements. They are saying this from the TV screens and online. They are saying this everywhere on the record: We don’t like them; we will not do it. And all this time, Russia has been accused of not fulfilling the agreements. This is simply nonsense; the theater of the absurd; white is called black and black is called white. Lately, things got even worse. Actually, the talk has started long ago, but intensified of late. More and more often we hear that Ukraine would be admitted into NATO. Do you understand what this could lead to? Or can lead to still?
If Ukraine is a NATO member, then according to the North Atlantic Treaty, all other members must support the country in case of a military conflict. No one besides us has recognized Crimea as a Russian territory. The yare conducting military operations in Donbas but also could move onto Crimea, and in such case we would have to fight with the whole of NATO. What is that? Do you understand the consequences? I think everyone understands.
Now they (Ukraine) are talking about acquiring the nuclear status, i.e. developing nuclear weapons. We cannot possibly ignore such things, particularly considering that we know how the so-called West behaves with regard to Russia. First, Ukraine has some nuclear competence left from the Soviet time. As far as enrichment and nuclear material are concerned, they would be able to organize that work. They have missile abilities: suffice is to mention Yuzhmush. This company used to build intercontinental ballistic missile equipment for the Soviet Union. They could recover that ability and do it. And those from across the ocean would even help them do it. And after that would say: “Well, we do not recognize the nuclear status; they have done everything themselves”. And then they would put these complexes under control, and from that moment on, from that very second, the fate of Russia will be completely different. Because in that case, our strategic adversaries would not even need intercontinental ballistic missiles. They would keep us right here at the nuclear gunpoint, that is all. How could we disregard such a thing? These are absolutely real threats, not some far-fetched silly fantasy.
Our boys who are now fighting and risking their lives, they are fighting and giving their lives for our future, for the future of our children. This is something perfectly obvious. And the people who do not want to understand that, particularly those among today’s leaders (of Ukraine), have to understand that if they keep doing what the have been doing – I have spoken about this before – they put at risk the very future of the Ukrainian statehood. If this happens, that will be entirely their fault.
What is going on now? I have already mentioned our objectives in this operation. First, of course, is to protect the people living in Donbass. How? By demilitarizing and denazifying Ukraine as well as establishing its neutral status. Why? Because the neutral status means Ukraine will not be joining NATO. They have it written in the Constitution that the country will be joining NATO. You understand – they have included that into the Constitution!
Denazification – what does this mean? I have spoken with my Western colleagues about this. They say:” What is the problem? You also have the radical nationalists”. Yes, we do. But we do not have them in the government, but everybody agrees that they (the Ukrainians) do. Perhaps, we have some idiots running around with swastika, but do we support that at the government level? Do thousands of people march with torches and swastikas on the streets of our capital or other cities in Russia, like it happened in 1930s in Nazi Germany? Is something like that happening in Russia? But it happens in Ukraine, and it is supported. Do we support those who killed the Russians, Jews, or the Poles during the war? Do we hail them as heroes? But in Ukraine, they do.
The current events are also very important. Look, the foreign citizens have been taken hostages in Sumy and Kharkov – over 6,000 young people, students. They have been driven together into a railway station and kept there for 3 days. Listen, they have been held there for the third day. We have told everybody about this and informed the current Ukrainian authorities. They said: “Yes, yes, of course, we will deal this this right now”. We have informed the leaders of the major European countries, I personally talked to them. “Yes, yes, we will put pressure on Ukraine right now”. We informed the UN Secretary-General: “Yes, yes, we will solve the problem right away”. Nobody is doing anything.
People who are considered the citizens of Ukraine are treated even worse. They are simply used as a human shield. Right now, in this very moment, this is happening in Mariupol. The Kiev government called our military: ”Provide humanitarian corridors so people could leave”. Naturally, our people instantly responded, even suspended the military activities, and were observing what was happening. But no one was allowed to leave. You understand, no one was allowed out. They do not anybody leave but instead use the people as a human shield. Who are they? The neo-Nazis, of course.
We already observe the presence of the militants from the Middle East and some European countries. We know about them; we can hear them speak on the radio. They are using so-called jihad-mobiles, i.e. cars stuffed with explosives, which they drive towards the Russian troops. But they do not achieve anything, and they will fail in the end. Who are they, then, if not neo-Nazis? By such actions, they are destroying their own country and their own statehood.
That is why one of our key demands is demilitarization. In other words, we are helping people of Donbass by working towards the neutral status of Ukraine and the demilitarization of the country. We have to know with certainty what weapons are there, where they are deployed, and who controls them. A number of options are on the table. We are discussing them now, including with the Kiev government representatives in our talks in Belarus. We are grateful to the President Lukashenko for organizing the meetings and helping us to conduct these negotiations. Our proposals are on the table for the groups of the negotiators from Kiev to study. We hope that Kiev will respond positively to our proposals. This is pretty much all I wanted to say.
Please, let us continue.
Schvidko, Yulia, the second pilot of the Aeroflot airline. Vladimir Vladimirovich, good afternoon. My question is about the current situation. Many rumors are circulating about possible introduction of the marshal law, drafting of volunteers and reservists, and that the draftees will be sent to Ukraine. Could you clarify whether the marshal law will be declared and whether the drafted soldiers will be deployed to Ukraine.
Many of what we now see and what is happening is undoubtedly a technique to fight against Russia. By the way, the sanctions imposed today are close to a declaration of a war. But fortunately, we are not there yet. I believe that our so-called “partners” still retain some understanding of what a war would mean and what danger it presents for everybody. That is despite that irresponsible statements, such as made by the British Foreign Minister, when she blurted that NATO could involve itself in the conflict. At that point, we had to immediately make a decision to put our strategic forces on high alert. They reacted by saying that they did not mean anything of the sort. However, nobody put the Minister in her place, and nobody disavowed her statement. No one said anything to us about that statement, like it was her personal opinion, do not pay attention, or something like that. Nothing. What are we supposed to think about that? That is why we reacted the way we did.
Now about your question. The marshal law is introduced by the order of the President supported by the Federation Council in the case of the external aggression, specifically in the regions where the military activity takes place. We are not in that situation now, and I hope will not be. This is first. The second point – there is also, in addition to the marshal law, a special status. This status is also declared by the Federation Council in case of a significant internal threat. The third regime is the state of emergency, which is usually declared in particular regions, although could also be adopted in the entire territory of the country. This regime is for technological and natural disasters. Thanks God, this is also not happening. We are not planning to declare any of these regimes on the territory of the Russian Federation. There is no need for that today.
We can see that attempts are being made to stir up trouble in our society, which is again a conformation of my words that we are dealing with not just the radicals but with the neo-Nazis. Here people are expressing their opinion about what they like or dislike in our action in Ukraine. But there, in Ukraine, people that express the opinions similar to those expressed by the so-called ‘liberal” part of our society, are being detained on the streets and shot – we do have confirmation of that. Our special services are now collecting this information and we will be presenting it soon. Our liberal intellectuals are protesting, whereas in Ukraine people that say anything in favor of Russia are been executed without trial.
I repeat, that the marshal law is declared in case of the external aggression, which I hope will not happen despite irresponsible statements of some officials. We hear that a no fly zone should be established over the Ukrainian territory. This is impossible to do in the territory of Ukraine itself; this is only possible to organize from the territories of the neighboring countries. However, we will consider any movement in this direction as active participation in the military conflict by a country, the territory of which is used to create danger for our servicemen. We will in a second consider them as a party to the military conflict. I hope this is also understood, and it will not come to that.
Only professional military personnel are taking part in this operation, officers and contract servicemen. Not a single drafted soldier is participating, and we are not planning to send them to Ukraine, and we will not. I repeat only men who have made a voluntary responsible decision in their lives – to defend their country – are in Ukraine, and they are doing their duty with honor. Why this is the case, why we have the right to say these words, I have just explained to you. This also applied to reserve personnel undergoing periodic military training – we are not planning to deploy them to Ukraine. They are summoned to the military training on the regular basis – this happens now and will be happening in the future – but we will not enlist these people for the active military service, and they will not participate in this conflict. We have sufficient resources to achieve our objectives employing only our professional army.
I would like to comment on the military operation itself. I know many rumors and stories are being circulating. I do not have much time to learn about this, but I have been informed that people talk a lot about what is happening and how the operation is proceeding. All analysts know what is going on, so I am not going to reveal any secrets here. We could have acted in many different ways. We could have helped the Donbass republics directly on the separation line, i.e. on the front, using our Russian army to support them. But in such case, considering the unconditional support by the West of the radical nationalists, the Ukrainian side would have received constant support by weapons, material, ammunition, and all.
That is why our General Staff and the Ministry of Defense decided on a different strategy. First that was done is the elimination of the military infrastructure. Not entirely, but largely. The weapon depots, ammunition depots, aviation, air defense systems. The destruction of the air defense systems requires certain time. You are civilians but you do work in aviation. You understand that these systems need to be uncovered and then destroyed; by now this work is largely done. That is what brings about the demands for a no fly zone. However, an attempt to put this into effect would lead to enormous and catastrophic consequences not only for Europe, but also for the entire world. I do believe that the people on the other side do understand that. That is why we have chosen this path, correctly, as it turned out. Our military is working responsibly doing everything possible to protect the civilians. Unfortunately, those neo-Nazi bandits do not have any consideration for the people. They even shoot their own servicemen who do not want to continue fighting – we do have evidence of that. Yes, those nationalists, neo-Nazis shoot their own servicemen. The nationalists are embedded in practically every Ukrainian military unit, several dozens of them in each, and they act in such a cruel way.
I repeat one more time: we will not deploy draftees or reservists to Ukraine to participate in this military operation. I am convinced that our army will achieve all our objectives. I do not doubt that for a second. This is evident from the way the operation is proceeding, which is strictly according to the plan, to the schedule; all is happening the way it had been planned by the General Staff. Oh, regarding volunteers, the young people who come to the recruiting stations – we are grateful to them for their patriotic sentiments, the desire to support their country and its army in this time. The very fact that they come is significant. However, their help is not required at this time. And I am convinced will not be needed. Now I am turning towards the camera. They will see me and hear what I am saying – thank you.