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Ukraine Russia latest news: Putin to deliver major war speech in Moscow after Biden leaves Kyiv

Joe Biden meets Volodymyr Zelensky in surprise visit to Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin is expected to give a major speech today ahead of the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, officials in the Kremlin said.

Mr Putin will address members of both houses of the Russian parliament in Moscow and seek to reassure Russia’s political and military elites on the Ukraine conflict in his speech.

He is also expected to share an analysis of the international situation, with his major address coming just hours after US president Joe Biden walked the streets of Kyiv.

Mr Biden swept unannounced into Ukraine yesterday to meet with president Volodymyr Zelensky in a defiant display of Western solidarity with a country still fighting what he called “a brutal and unjust war” days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

Mr Biden announced an additional half a billion dollars in US assistance during his surprise visit.

He spent more than five hours in Kyiv, consulting with Mr Zelensky on next steps and honouring the country’s fallen soldiers.


Putin to deliver major speech in Moscow

Vladimir Putin is expected to make a key speech to members of both houses of the Russian parliament in Moscow today, just days before the war in Ukraine marks its first year.

Mr Putin will speak to Russia’s political and military elite on the Ukraine conflict in his speech and also share an analysis of the international situation.

It comes just hours after US president Joe Biden walked the streets of Kyiv, warning Mr Putin he had been “dead wrong” in his assessment of how an invasion of Ukraine would turn out.

The Russian president will also outline his vision for Russia’s development with the backdrop of sweeping sanctions imposed by the West on its oligarchs, businessmen and major firms, the Kremlin said.

The speech is due to begin at 9am GMT in central Moscow.

Arpan Rai21 February 2023 03:46


What next for Putin?

Analysts see several scenarios for Putin, depending on battlefield developments.

The scenarios, not mutually exclusive, range from what could be his biggest nightmare — a coup or uprisings like those he saw as a KGB agent in East Germany in 1989, in the USSR in 1991 or Ukraine in 2004 and 2014 — to winning reelection next year.

That would extend what is already the longest rule of any Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin.

Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst and professor at Free University in Riga, Latvia, said Putin could revise his goals in Ukraine, declaring he achieved them by establishing a land corridor from Russia to Crimea and taking over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east.

Then he could announce, “We punished them. We showed them who is the boss in the house. We have defeated all NATO countries,” Oreshkin added.

But Kyiv has shown no willingness to cede territory, and for Putin to sell this as a victory, Orsehkin believes “he needs to convince himself that he defeated Ukraine. And he understands better than anyone that, in fact, he lost.”

As military setbacks mount, Russians are withdrawing morally and psychologically, and thinking, “Yes, we see that something is wrong in the war, but we do not want to know,” according to Oreshkin.

Such tuning out, along with economic hardships, could blow back on Putin, he said, perhaps this spring, as Russians ask, “You promised victory, so where is it?”

Former Putin speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov said the Russian president doesn’t admit mistakes or defeats, and “desperately needs a victory just to prove the point that he’s a strongman.”

Even some in the military are turning critical, he said.

“When he becomes hated by more than half — and we’re driving in this direction — the chances for a coup, elite coup, military coup, will increase,” Gallyamov said, giving a timeline of 2024 “plus a couple of years.”

Stanovaya and Short believe no uprising is imminent.

“Even if people are suffering, and they can be discontented and angry, there is no way to make it political,” Stanovaya said.

Gallyamov sees a way out for Putin if he can gain recognition of “new territories, plus a declaration of NATO that it stops expansion, for example, or Ukrainian introduction into their constitution of their neutral status … or their declaration that Russian will be the second official language.”

Sam Rkaina21 February 2023 04:55


China says ‘deeply worried’ about war in Ukraine

China is “deeply worried” that the Ukraine conflict could spiral out of control, the country’s foreign minister Qin Gang said today, asking certain unnamed countries to stop “fuelling the fire”.

“We urge certain countries to immediately stop fuelling the fire,” Mr Qin said during a speech, in remarks that appeared to be aimed at the US after Joe Biden made his first visit to war-hit Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.

Beijing, which last year struck a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, has refrained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We stand firmly against any form of hegemony, against any foreign interference in China’s affairs,” the minister said.

Arpan Rai21 February 2023 04:51


UK spent £50 billion extra on gas since Ukraine invasion – analysts

The UK has spent more than £50 billion extra on gas since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a new analysis suggests.

The analysis, carried out by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), estimates that the UK paid between £50-60 billion more for wholesale gas in 2022 than in a typical pre-pandemic year.

British households have been hit harder by the current crisis than in any other western European country, according to the IMF, because of the UK’s dependence on imported gas.

Wholesale gas prices exploded after the invasion and have been in a volatile state ever since, with many British households now burdened with much higher bills.

Read the full story here:

Arpan Rai21 February 2023 04:26


‘Erratic but determined’ leader

In interviews with The Associated Press, Short, other analysts and a former Kremlin insider describe the 70-year-old Putin as an erratic, weakened leader, rigid and outdated in his thinking, who overreached and is in denial about the difficulties.

They say he seems concerned about waning, though still strong, domestic public opinion — albeit from unreliable polls. Mostly isolated due to Covid-19 concerns and his personal security, Putin speaks with a small set of advisers, but they appear reluctant to provide honest assessments.

Observers see a long, grinding war that Putin is determined to win, with his way out hard to predict.

“It’s not Putin that rules Russia. It’s circumstances which rule Putin,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, senior fellow of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Short believes the Kremlin leader “has painted himself into a corner. … He will be looking for ways to push ahead, but I don’t think he’s found them.” Giving up is unlikely, Short said, recalling that “his character was always to double down and fight harder.”

Fiona Hill, who served in the past three U.S. administrations and is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes Putin wanted to win quickly in Ukraine, install a new president in Kyiv and force it to join Belarus in a Slavic union with Russia. A successor would run Russia, she said, with Putin elevating himself to lead the larger alliance.

But now, according to Stanovaya, “It feels like there is not any hopes that the conflict can be solved any other way than militarily. And this is scary.”

Sam Rkaina21 February 2023 03:55


History and modern roadblocks

Mr Putin began the “special military operation” in the name of Ukraine’s demilitarization and “denazification,” seeking to protect ethnic Russians, prevent Kyiv’s NATO membership and to keep it in Russia’s “sphere of influence.”

While he claims Ukraine and the West provoked the invasion, they say just the opposite — that it was an illegal and brazen act of aggression against a country with a democratically elected government and a Jewish president whose relatives were killed in the Holocaust.

Putin laid the foundation for the invasion with a 5,000-word essay in 2021, in which he questioned Ukraine’s legitimacy as a nation.

That was only the latest chapter in a long obsession with the country and a determination to correct what he believes was a historical mistake of letting it slip from Moscow’s orbit.

He reached back three centuries, to Peter the Great, to support his quest to reconquer rightful Russian territory.

But rectifying history soon hit modern roadblocks.

“Literally everything that he set out to do has gone disastrously wrong,” said British journalist Philip Short, who published his biography, “Putin,” last year.

Despite armed interventions in Chechnya, Syria and Georgia, Putin overestimated his military and underestimated Ukrainian resistance and Western support. Russian media try to boost his authority with images of a bare-chested Putin riding a horse, shooting at a military firing range and dressing down government officials on TV, but the war has exposed his shortcomings and the weakness of his military, intelligence services and some economic sectors.

Ukrainian forces have liberated more than half the territory Russia seized.

The war has killed tens of thousands on both sides, caused widespread destruction, and induced not only Ukraine but Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership. It has increased the security threat to Russia and scuttled decades of Russia’s integration with the West, bringing international isolation.

Increasingly, Putin seems to be improvising in a conflict much longer and more difficult than he expected. For example, he’s threatened to use nuclear weapons, then backed off.

The strategy is familiar from his lifelong passion, judo: “You must be flexible. Sometimes you can give way to others if that is the way leading to victory,” Putin recounted in flattering 2015-17 interviews with American director Oliver Stone.

In Putin’s view, an aggressive West wants to crush Russia. His narrative, along with increasingly repressive measures to stifle domestic dissent, has galvanized patriotic support among many of his countrymen.

But it runs up against an inefficient, top-down power structure inherited from the Soviet Union, against the interconnected world’s porous borders, and against the sacrifices Russians are suffering firsthand.

Sam Rkaina21 February 2023 02:55


Putin’s Ukraine gamble seen as biggest threat to his rule

Vladimir Putin says he learned from his boyhood brawls in his native St. Petersburg: “If you want to win a fight, you have to carry it through to the end, as if it were the most decisive battle of your life.”

That lesson, cited in the most recent biography of the Russian president, seems to be guiding him as his invasion of Ukraine suffers setbacks and stalemates.

The Kremlin strongman, who started the war on Feb. 24, 2022, and could end it in a minute, appears to be determined to prevail, ruthlessly and at all costs.

Stoking his countrymen this month on the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad that turned around Moscow‘s fortunes in World War II, he said: “The willingness to go beyond for the sake of the Motherland and the truth, to do the impossible, has always been and remains in the blood, in the character of our multiethnic people.”

But so far, Putin’s gamble in invading his smaller and weaker neighbor seems to have backfired spectacularly and created the biggest threat to his more than two-decade-long rule.


Sam Rkaina21 February 2023 01:55


‘Conservative outrage at Biden’s Kyiv visit signals trouble ahead for America and Ukraine’

Eric Garcia, the Independent’s Washington bureau chief, writes:

“President Joe Biden surprised much of the world when he visited Kyiv on Monday to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal assault on Ukraine.

“The president’s team had previously stated he would visit Poland but not Ukraine; but the image of the US president with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave Mr Biden a chance to show his strength as commander-in-chief.

“Mr Biden had repeatedly warned about the prospect that Russia would invade Ukraine in the weeks leading up to invasion on 24 February of last year. His ability to unite much of the international community behind supporting Ukraine, while making Russia a pariah, rehabilitated his image as chief diplomat after it took a hit during the United States’ exit from Afghanistan.

“As my colleague Andrew Buncombe writes, the images of Mr Biden walking through Kyiv offer a perfect image ahead of a potential re-election.”

Sam Rkaina21 February 2023 00:55


Former PMs pile pressure on Sunak

Ms Truss added: “We need to do all we can as fast as we can. My view is that does include fighter jets … Let’s work with our allies to get [Ukraine] an option to be able to use, because otherwise they won’t prevail.”

Mr Johnson also repeated his call for Britain and its allies to provide fighter jets now – saying the Sunak government should “cut to the chase and give them the planes”.

He added: “The Ukrainians are not just fighting for their freedom, but for the cause of freedom around the world. We should give them what they need, not next month, not next year, but now.”

Liz Truss speaking about fighter jets for Ukraine in Commons

(Parliament TV)

Sam Rkaina20 February 2023 23:55


Liz Truss joins Boris Johnson in calling for fighter jets to Ukraine

The former prime minister – ousted by her own party after only six weeks at No 10 – said she wanted her successor to provide Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky with the aircraft he asked for on his recent visit to the UK.

“I can’t wait to see the tanks and I can’t wait to see the fighter jets in Ukraine to help those brave Ukrainians,” Ms Truss told MPs on Monday.

Sam Rkaina20 February 2023 22:55

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