March 3, 2022

WELL, WHAT ELSE IS HE GOING TO SAY: Putin’s breath-taking hypocrisy: Russian dictator declares Ukrainians are ‘extreme gangsters’ and accuses them of using civilians as ‘human shields’ as his forces relentlessly bombard families’ homes.

The address, one of the first Putin has made in public since announcing the start of his ‘special operation’ eight days ago – will do little to reassure anyone that the war is close to being over, or that Russia can be brought to the negotiating table without more blood being shed.

But it also hints that Putin is rattled as the fighting proves harder than Russian commanders anticipated, and western sanctions go harder and deeper than even European or American observers predicted. All hope of a swift victory has now been dashed, leaving Putin facing a long, bloody and expensive war to achieve his aims.

And he’s defined those aims narrowly now: “Referring to the invasion as a ‘special operation’ aimed only at protecting the eastern Donbass region, he acknowledged that some Russian forces including a senior commander had died in the fighting – but claimed the officer had blown himself up in a heroic act of sacrifice while taking out several Ukrainian soldiers.”

But there’s this:

Just hours before the TV address, Putin had phoned Emmanuel Macron to tell the French President that he has no intention of pulling back from Ukraine or watering down his security demands, will achieve his aims ‘whatever happens’ and will continue fighting until ‘the end’.

Macron’s aides said after the call that they believe Putin intends to take the whole country, and that the ‘worst is yet to come’ as the Russian attacks step up, and that ‘there was nothing in what President Putin told us that should reassure us.’

Mr Macron is said to have told Putin he is making a ‘major mistake’ and ‘lying to himself’. Macron said Russia would end up poor, weakened and under sanctions for a very long time.

‘There was nothing in what President Putin told us that should reassure us. He showed great determination to continue the operation,’ Macron’s aide said, before adding that Putin ‘wanted to seize control of the whole of Ukraine’.

Putin’s two statements today – the first he has made in public since announcing the start of his ‘special operation’ eight days ago – will do little to reassure anyone that the war is close to being over, or that Russia could be brought to the negotiating table without more blood being shed.

Putin’s all in, and can’t afford to back down now.

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