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Putin’s one ‘trump card’ as Russia’s sanctions take toll and desperation sinks in

Vladimir Putin could 'shatter' NATO will over Ukraine conflict

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The West has responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by imposing a severe set of sanctions, labelled as “economic blitzkrieg” by Putin. The UK’s Treasury Committee noted yesterday that the US, EU, and UK’s measures against Russia will cause “a significant hit to the size of its economy and significant inflation”. The cross party’s committee reported that further sanctions against Russian energy imports could also have “catastrophic and long lasting” effects if fully implemented. 

Russian shops have seen massive shortages of sugar and buckwheat, while the prices of essential products, such as tampons, have skyrocketed.

However, according to former BBC Moscow correspondent Mr Connolly, Putin’s propaganda machine has managed to convince masses of Russia’s population that the invasion of Ukraine is justified. 

Mr Connolly told Express.co.uk: “There are lots of stories reported from Ukraine where Ukranians, many of whom, millions of whom, have got relatives in Russia. Millions of Ukranians are married to Russians. 

“People have talked about being on the phone to their relatives in Russia saying ‘Our cities are being destroyed by Russian artillery’ and Russians don’t believe them.

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“Partly because you don’t want to believe. I’ve been in quite a lot of wars over the course of my career ‒ nobody ever thinks they’re the bad guy.”

Putin justified Russia’s invasion of it’s neighbour by claiming there was a need to “denazify” Ukraine, a country whose democratically-elected President is Jewish with relatives who died in the Holocaust. 

Nevertheless, Putin labelled Volodymyr Zelensky’s government as a “gang of drug addict and neo-Nazis” and urged the Ukranian people to not let “neo-Nazis use your children, wives and elders as human shield”.

Last week, the Russian President continued to peddle the lie when he held a pro-war rally in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

Putin addressed the Russian people while standing behind a banner that said: “For a world without Nazism. For Russia.”

Though Western critics have rightly labelled the baseless claim as absurd and offensive, Mr Connolly noted that lie is Putin’s key “trump card” as it resonates with a key moment in Russian history.

Mr Connolly said: “Why does Putin keep talking about denazification? It’s because he knows it’s Russia’s only trump card historically. 

“It’s the only time in modern times when Russia held the moral highground was when it was the primary engine for defeating Nazi Germany. 

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“Hence the constant references to it. 

“And the Russians – did those conscript soldiers really believe they were going in to liberate?

“[Did they think] that there would be Ukranians dancing in the streets when they arrive? Maybe they did.

“If you’re a conscript in some remote military base and you’re only allowed to know what your officers tell you, you probably are inclined to believe it.

“One of the worrying and depressing things about it, and something for us all to think about in our own societies and our own lives, is that these freedoms are surprisingly vulnerable, and people like Putin are extremely good at putting them under pressure.” 

Since launching his invasion, Putin has signed a new censorship law that has essentially made it illegal for independent news organisations to report accurate details of Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Journalists are not even allowed to refer to the invasion as a “war”, and face up to 15 years in prison for reporting what the Kremlin considers “fake news”.

Russia has also denied its citizens access to Twitter and Meta social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

Meanwhile false information about the invasion has been spread by users in Russia as well as official state media accounts.

Russian media has framed itself as a victim and has spread disinformation including that the US was providing Ukraine with biological weapons, a claim denounced by the White House as a “conspiracy theory”.

The Russian state has also alleged that the victims of attacks in Ukrainian hospitals were just paid actors.

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