From calling up hundreds of thousands of additional troops to declaring four regions of Ukraine to be part of Russia without controlling them, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has used speeches to try to maintain public support for a war in which his country has endured setback after setback.
Mr. Putin declares war on Ukraine in a televised address riddled with falsehoods, calling Moscow’s full-scale invasion the start of a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.” He frames the invasion as a precautionary act against Western aggression, referring to NATO’s expansion as a threat to Russia’s sovereignty.
Mr. Putin refers to pro-Western Russians as “scum and traitors” who need to be removed from society, describing the war in Ukraine as part of an existential clash with the United States and setting the stage for an ever fiercer crackdown at home and more aggression abroad. Comparing the West to Nazi Germany, the Russian leader laces his speech with derision for the “political beau monde” in Europe and the United States and for the “slave-like” Russians who support it.
Speaking on Russia’s most important secular holiday, which commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, Mr. Putin delivers a calibrated message for the broader Russian public: They can keep living their lives while the military fights to rid Ukraine, in his false telling, of “torturers, death squads and Nazis.” The only policy announcement Mr. Putin makes in his speech is additional aid for the children of dead and wounded soldiers, a move aimed at assuaging the pain directly caused by the war. Mr. Putin did not appear ready to order a mass mobilization, nor did he claim that the fight in Ukraine would end soon.
In a speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual business conference once known as “Russia’s Davos,” Mr. Putin seeks to rally anti-American sentiment in Europe and across the world. He lashes out anew at the United States, calling it a fading power that treats its allies as colonies and says the West is falsely blaming its economic woes on the war in Ukraine.
That day, the European Commission formally recommends that Ukraine be granted candidate status to become a member of the European Union.
In a rare national address, Mr. Putin lays out the Kremlin’s strategy of continuing to raise the stakes in the war, despite the humiliating setbacks Russia’s military has recently suffered on the battlefield. He announces a call-up of roughly 300,000 reservists to the military and directly challenges the West over its support for Ukraine with a veiled threat of using nuclear weapons.
Mr. Putin says he is prepared to declare Russia in control of the four Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, even though some of that territory is controlled by Ukrainian forces. “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” he says. “This is not a bluff.”
Mr. Putin, addressing an annual foreign policy conference outside Moscow, seems to aim more at winning over political conservatives abroad than his own citizens, declaring that Russia’s battle is with “Western elites,” not with the West itself. He also denies that Moscow is preparing to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Putin appears intent on capitalizing on political divisions in the United States and its allies that have only heightened since they began showering Ukraine with military aid. Many of the themes of the Russian leader’s speech are familiar but have new resonance given the coming midterm elections in the United States and growing discontent in Europe over the costs of the war.