It was the anniversary of the Russian heroic deed. On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. On Tuesday, April 12, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin used the anniversary to declare an invasion of Ukraine “inevitable” and thus incidentally linked recent events to the fame of a world-famous Soviet citizen.
Putin spoke at the Vostochny space base in eastern Russia. He compared Gagarin’s achievement in the technologically isolated Soviet Union to today’s sanctioned Russia. The message: “Blitzkrieg sanctions” that the West is now leading against Russia will not bring down the country.
According to Putin, Russia came to the aid of the oppressed population in the Ukrainian region of Donbas. “On the one hand, we are helping and saving people, on the other hand, we are simply taking measures to guarantee the security of Russia itself. Obviously we had no choice. It was the right decision. ” Russia’s goals are, in Putin’s words, “perfectly clear” and “noble.”
On February 24, Russia invaded a neighboring country that posed no threat. In the nearly seven weeks since then, ten million Ukrainians have been displaced, two out of three Ukrainian children have strayed, entire settlements have been reduced to ashes, and an unknown number have been killed and injured. Russian soldiers rob and commit war crimes. Thousands of Ukrainians have reportedly been deported to Russia.
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New mass graves every day
Putin dismissed images of civilians killed in Butsha as fake news. Negotiations with Ukraine on a truce have been halted, he said – although the Ukrainian side has said negotiations are still ongoing. According to Putin, Kyiv will not adhere to the agreements previously reached during the negotiations in Istanbul.
The Ukrainian government, meanwhile, is doing its best to gather as much convincing evidence of Russian misdeeds as possible. War crimes are being investigated in the liberated areas. “New mass graves are found almost daily,” President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday via video link. He also noted that “hundreds of rape cases” have been documented in areas previously occupied by the Russian military. Among the victims were “little underage girls and very young children.”
Ukraine gathers evidence to counter Russian allegation of ‘fake news’
According to the Russian president, the ‘military operation’ is going according to plan, according to the state-run Tass news agency, using a higher name for the war. Russia will continue until the original goals are achieved.
Putin also said that Moscow would act at a moderate pace as originally intended. Speeding up the operation would lead to losses. It has always been about Donbass, actions in other parts of Ukraine are designed to weaken the opponent. Russian troops withdrew from Kiev in recent days because they failed to capture the capital and are now regrouping in the southeast for the battle of Donbas
The West is trying to isolate Russia with sanctions. But Putin said during his speech at Astronaut Day, it is impossible in the modern world to extensively isolate a country, “especially a country as big as Russia.”
Under Gagarin, in the early 1960s, the Soviet Union and the United States participated in a space race, in which the Soviet Union initially took the lead.
Putin: “Despite everything, the Soviet Union was the first to launch an artificial satellite, we had the first cosmonaut, the first flight to the moon, the first spacewalk and the first cosmonaut’s wife. Tereshkova – God bless – was also ours.
“Can you really think that today’s Russia, with its advanced technology, is not capable of sustaining its space program in the future?”
It was the Russian president’s first public appearance outside Moscow since the start of the war. Along with Putin – not coincidentally – was Alexander Lukashenko, the leader and ally of Belarus.
A version of this article also appeared in the NRC Handelsblad dated 13 April 2022
A version of this article also appeared in the NRC on the morning of April 13, 2022