Sunday, June 20

Putin promises an “asymmetric, fast and tough” response to anyone who crosses Russia’s red lines | International

Russia’s enemies “will regret it.” Russian President Vladimir Putin promised on Wednesday that those who cross Russia’s “red lines” will receive an “asymmetric, swift and harsh” response. In his State of the Nation speech, focused on domestic politics and the economy, but also rimmed with threats against the West, the Russian leader has warned of retaliation if the country is forced to defend its interests. “The organizers of any provocation that threatens the fundamental interests of our security will repent in a way that they have not regretted for a long time,” he asserted before a room full of members of the Government, parliamentarians, religious leaders and personalities from the orbit of the Kremlin. All while Moscow has deployed a larger contingent of soldiers and weapons on the borders with Ukraine even than in 2014.

Putin did not point to any country and remarked that it will be Russia who will point out, in each case, where those “red lines” are. And although he remarked that he does not want to “burn bridges” and does “have good relations with all the participants of international society,” he also stressed that Russia’s arsenals of new nuclear weapons have increased and are ready and that his drone will soon be added to them. Poseidon submarine and the Burevestnik cruise missile.

In his widely anticipated speech, with Ukraine, the European Union and NATO on alert for the deployment of troops and the fear of a possible geopolitical movement, and his fiercest critic, Alexei Navalni, imprisoned and sick, Putin has charged against the “ selfish and arrogant tone of the West “and has singled out him for adding to the sanctions” crude attempts to impose his will on others by force. “

Before a room in which, despite being mandatory due to the coronavirus pandemic, masks were very scarce, the Russian president has gone a step further and has accused the West of organizing what he has defined as an attempted coup of State in Belarus that included, he said, the assassination of the president, Aleksandr Lukashenko. “The practice of organizing coups, plans for political assassinations, including those of high officials, is already too much,” said Putin, who mentioned Venezuela and Nicolás Maduro, and the Ukrainian Víktor Yanukovich, who fled the country to Russia in 2014 driven by a large pro-European citizen mobilization and against corruption that ended up leading to the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea by Russia through an illegal referendum and in the Donbas war, in which Moscow militarily and politically supported the separatists pro-Russians. “All borders have already been crossed,” Putin said.

The mention of the alleged coup, which comes a few days after the Russian secret services (FSB) and the Belarusians (KGB) arrested some of the alleged leaders of the coup in the Russian capital is disturbing; Among the defendants, the political scientist Aleksandr Feduta, his former spokesman when he came to power in 1994, who later became an opponent. Putin’s resounding endorsement of Lukashenko, who has suppressed protests for democracy in Belarus since the summer, not only implies that Belarus is already turning inexorably towards Moscow, argues Maxim Samorukov of the Carnegie Moscow Center; It may also be one more key geopolitical step in the agreement on the union of the two countries.

This Thursday, Putin and Lukashenko meet in Moscow and the Belarusian leader has advanced that after that meeting he will announce “one of the most important decisions” of his presidency, which exceeds a quarter of a century; a comment that has triggered speculation from analysts.

A Ukrainian soldier on the front line near the town of Marinka in the Donetsk region on Tuesday.
A Ukrainian soldier on the front line near the town of Marinka in the Donetsk region on Tuesday.ALEKSEY FILIPPOV / AFP

Putin has avoided mentioning Ukraine. Nor has he spoken of the Donbas conflict. Nor of the proposal that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, launched to him on Tuesday, to be in that Ukrainian region, which has been experiencing a war for seven years that has cost the lives of some 14,000 people, according to the UN.

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With his eyes fixed on the parliamentary elections in September and in the face of growing social discontent over the loss of real income in Russia, which has fallen by 11% since 2013, Putin has focused his speech on social and economic issues; He also praised the Russian response to the coronavirus pandemic and has called on the public to get vaccinated. Despite the fact that Russia was the first country to register a vaccine, Sputnik V, already authorized in more than 60 countries and which has become a powerful geopolitical tool, only 6% of Russians have used it.

The Russian leader has also announced a shower of aid to win the support of Russians, who are suffering from the large increase in the price of basic food. They will be aimed primarily at supporting families with children for whom it provides an aid of about 110 euros to be paid in August, 61 euros for single-parent families and a monthly payment of 64 euros to “future mothers in difficulties.” Measures, Dmitry Medvedev, his former prime minister and leader of United Russia (the government party), has commented later, which will be the outlines of his electoral program for the September elections.

March in favor of the opposition Alexei Navalni in Vladivostok, Russia, this Wednesday.  On the banner you can read:
March in favor of the opposition Alexei Navalni in Vladivostok, Russia, this Wednesday. On the banner you can read: “No to war, repression and torture!”YURI MALTSEV / Reuters

And while Putin was reeling off his announcements and charged against the West, the protests in support of the opposition Navalni began in several cities of the Russian Far East that, due to their time zone, have given – very timidly – the starting signal for the mobilizations to demand liberation. of the opposition leader, who will have to serve a two-year and eight-month sentence for violating the probation terms of an old (and controversial) sentence while in Germany recovering from last summer’s poisoning in Siberia that nearly cost him his life and behind which the West sees the Kremlin’s hand.

In recent days, while concern for the health of the opponent has increased, in his third week on a hunger strike to demand that he see a doctor of his choice, Russia has intensified the repression against Navalni’s allies with new records and arrests and the threat of declaring its foundation and its political headquarters as extremist organizations. Authorities have warned they will crush unauthorized demonstrations, as they did last January, when the anti-corruption activist was arrested upon returning to Moscow from Berlin. Before even starting the protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the police had arrested more than a hundred people, despite the fact that the demonstrations were not nourished.

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