In the early hours of Thursday, February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation, announcing a “special military operation” against Ukraine.
The speech came on the heels of his decision to recognise the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic on February 21 and the signing of mutual cooperation agreements between Russia and the two breakaway regions.
Below are highlights translated by Al Jazeera staff based on the transcript, released by the Russian presidency:
“Respected citizens of Russia! Dear friends!
“Today, I again consider it necessary to come back to the tragic events taking place in the Donbas and the key issue of ensuring Russian security. Let me start with what I said in my address of February 21. I am referring to what causes us particular concern and anxiety – those fundamental threats against our country that year after year, step by step, are offensively and unceremoniously created by irresponsible politicians in the West.
“I am referring to the expansion of the NATO to the east, moving its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders. It is well known that for 30 years we have persistently and patiently tried to reach an agreement with the leading NATO countries on the principles of equal and inviolable security in Europe. In response to our proposals, we constantly faced either cynical deception and lies, or attempts to pressure and blackmail, while NATO, despite all our protests and concerns, continued to steadily expand. The war machine is moving and, I repeat, it is coming close to our borders.”
“After the collapse of the USSR, the realignment of the world began, and the norms of international law that had been developed – the key, basic ones being adopted in the aftermath of World War II and largely consolidating its outcome – began to get in the way of the self-proclaimed winner of the Cold War.
“Of course, in practical life, in international relations and the rules that regulated them, it was necessary to take into account changes in the state of affairs in the world and the balance of power. This should have been done professionally, smoothly, patiently, taking into account and respecting the interests of all countries and understanding one’s own responsibility. But no, the euphoria from having absolute superiority, a kind of modern-day absolutism, and the low level of general culture and arrogance of decision-makers [led to] decision prepared, adopted and pushed through that were beneficial only for themselves. The situation began to develop according to a different scenario.
“You don’t have to look far for examples. First, without any approval from the UN Security Council, they carried out a bloody military operation against Belgrade, using aircraft and missiles right in the very centre of Europe. [They carried out] several weeks of continuous bombing of cities and critical infrastructure. We have to remind of these facts, as some Western colleagues do not like to remember those events, and when we talk about it, they prefer to point not to the norms of international law, but to the circumstances that they interpret as they see fit.
“Then came the turn of Iraq, Libya, Syria. The illegitimate use of military force against Libya, the twisting of all decisions taken by the UN Security Council on the Libyan issue led to the complete destruction of the state, to the emergence of a major hotbed of international terrorism, to a humanitarian catastrophe and a civil war that has not ended to this day. The tragedy, to which they doomed hundreds of thousands, millions of people not only in Libya, but throughout this region, gave rise to a massive migration wave from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
“They ensured a similar fate for Syria. The Western coalition’s military activities on the territory of this country without the consent of the Syrian government or the approval of the UN Security Council are nothing but aggression, intervention.
“However, there is a special place for the invasion of Iraq, which was carried out also without any legal grounds. As a pretext, they put forward supposedly reliable information from the United States about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As proof of this, publicly, in front of the eyes of the whole world, the US secretary of state shook some kind of a test tube with white powder, assuring everyone that this is a chemical weapon being developed in Iraq. And then it turned out that all this was a hoax, a bluff: there were no chemical weapons in Iraq.”
“In this context, there were promises to our country not to expand NATO even one inch to the east. I repeat – they deceived us, in other words, they simply conned us. Yes, you can often hear that politics is a dirty business. Perhaps [that is so], but not to this extent. After all, such cheating behaviour contradicts not only the principles of international relations, but above all the generally recognised norms of morality. Where is justice and truth here? Just total lies and hypocrisy.
“By the way, American politicians, political scientists and journalists themselves write and say that in recent years, an actual “empire of lies” has been created inside the United States. It’s hard to disagree with that, as it’s true. But let us not understate: the United States is a great country, a system-forming power. All her satellites not only dutifully agree, sing along to its music, but also copy its behaviour, and enthusiastically accept the rules they are offered. Therefore, with good reason, we can confidently say that the entire so-called Western bloc, formed by the United States in its own image and likeness, all of it is an ’empire of lies.’”
“Despite all of this, in December 2021 we once again made an attempt to agree with the United States and its allies on the principles of ensuring security in Europe and on the non-expansion of NATO. Everything was in vain. The US position did not change. They did not consider it necessary to negotiate with Russia on this important issue for us, continuing to pursue their own goals and disregarding our interests.”
“As for the military sphere, today, modern Russia, even after the collapse of the USSR and the loss of a significant part of its capacity, is one of the most powerful nuclear powers in the world and possesses certain advantages in some of the newest types of weaponry. In this regard, no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to defeat and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”
“As NATO expands to the east, with every passing year, the situation for our country is getting worse and more dangerous. Moreover, in recent days the leadership of NATO has been openly talking about the need to speed up, force the advancement of the alliance’s infrastructure to the borders of Russia. In other words, they are doubling down on their position. We can no longer just watch what is happening. It would be absolutely irresponsible on our part.
Source: Read Vladimir Putin full speech on Aljazeera