Why Putin’s rhetoric to justify war is unfounded

In the early morning, seated at a dark wooden desk, the master of the Kremlin gave the signal for hostilities. “I have made the decision for a special military operation,” Vladimir Putin announced Thursday morning in a surprise statement on television. After months of tension, the Russian president has decided to go to war with Ukraine to defend the self-proclaimed separatist “republics” in the east of the country, whose independence he recognized on Monday. “We will strive to achieve a demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” he added, before repeating his unfounded accusations of a “genocide” orchestrated by Ukraine in the pro-Russian secessionist territories.

Patrick Martin-Genier, specialist in European and international issues, and teacher at Sciences Po, sets the record straight. “It’s all madness,” he explains to 20 minutes. “Ukraine is not Nazi, it is a democratic regime. The president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was elected by direct universal suffrage, he is completely legitimate,” he underlines. “As in many countries, there are people on the far right. But they are not the ones who govern the country. It is a provocation to justify the intervention he has just made. »

“The words they use are excessive”

Ambassador of France in Moscow between 2009 and 2016, now director of research at Iris, Jean de Gliniasty* is also trying to understand the parallel made by Putin with the Third Reich. “It probably refers to the suppression of Russian-speaking television channels and various measures taken against Ukrainian citizens who were of Russian and Russophile origin. But all the words they use are excessive – and the term is not strong enough. This is part of a propaganda for internal use. »

According to the former diplomat, Putin is trying to justify this war to the Russians. “His own opinion, which includes the general line of Russian policy vis-à-vis Ukraine, is not necessarily in agreement with a military initiative,” he notes. He needs to add on the justifications. »

As for the accusations of “genocide”, François Heisbourg, special adviser to the Foundation for Strategic Research since 2005, makes things clear. “We did not see the shadow of the tail of a genocide” in Ukraine. Since 2014, and the emergence of pro-Russian separatist movements in the east of the country, in Donetsk and Lugansk, Donbass regions bordering Russia, around 14,000 people have been killed in clashes. “The Ukrainian people have used their legitimate right to defend themselves after being attacked as separatists seized power in these unrecognized republics. But there was no genocide,” adds Patrick Martin-Genier.

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A significant proportion of the inhabitants of these regions, victims of the fighting, are certainly Russian-speaking. “But the term genocide has a specific meaning,” says Patrick Martin-Genier. It is a systematic extermination of part of the population because of their ethnicity. Which is not at all the case here. Jean de Gliniasty acknowledges that the bombardments on the towns located in these territories caused numerous injuries “who were then repatriated and cared for in the Russian capital”. Among them, children who were victims of a “shell that fell on a school”. “But when Putin says that, he is addressing Russian citizens. He uses this to justify his military operation,” notes the former ambassador.

“A war of conquest”.

What is the purpose of this war declared by Moscow against Kiev? “Putin has been repeating the same thing for 30 years,” continues Jean de Gliniasty. He does not want to let Ukraine become a country opposed to Russia when it is a brotherly people. There is the desire to achieve the military neutralization of Ukraine. Putin, he notes, “did try to get that through negotiation, that is, by putting pressure on Ukraine. But when that didn’t work, he resorted to what he calls technical-military measures”.

François Heisbourg complete. “He considers that Ukraine is not a state, is not a country, is not a people, and that a puppet government in the hands of foreigners and composed of neo-Nazis must be eliminated. The goal of the master of the Kremlin is neither more nor less than to “overthrow the government and obtain the return of Ukraine to the bosom of the Russian empire” by waging “a war of conquest”.

“Putin is in a heritage logic”, analyzes Patrick Martin-Genier. “He considers that this territory has been stolen from Russia and wants to recover it either militarily or by obtaining the fall of the Ukrainian president. His own logic is to eliminate this democratic regime to put in place a regime that will be completely subordinate to it, as is the case with Belarus or Kazakhstan. »

*”A short history of Franco-Russian relations”, by Jean de Gliniasty, L’Inventaire edition, 128 pages, 13 euros

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