'They Started the War': Putin Blames West for Ukraine Invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States and other Western allies of Kyiv of starting the war in Ukraine, repeating claims about the build-up to the 2022 invasion during his address to the Federal Assembly on Tuesday, February 21.

“They started the war, and we used force in order to stop it,” Putin told the crowd of parliamentarians and other Russian officials in Moscow, referring to the conflict that first started in Ukraine’s east in 2014.

During a speech that lasted nearly two hours, Putin repeated a litany of unsubstantiated claims about Western plans to supply Ukraine with nuclear and other weapons before the February 2022 invasion; accused the United States and its allies of “Russophobia”; alleged that Ukrainian military units were using symbolism from Nazi Germany; and said Kyiv had been attacking Russian speakers and ethnic Russians in the Donbas region after the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych’s government in February 2014.

He also accused the European Union, the UK, and the US of “economic aggression,” and seeking to make Russians “suffer” through sanctions after February 2022.

Putin’s speech had been scheduled for December but was pushed back to Tuesday, three days before the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It was his first speech to the full parliament since April 2021.

The speech comes after US President Joe Biden visited Kyiv on Monday, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and pledging ongoing American support for Ukraine’s defense.

In previewing the speech, state news agency Tass reported Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that Putin would put an emphasis on the “current situation” in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation” rather than a war. Peskov said, “our entire life spins around the special op issue.”

Kyiv had repeatedly warned that Putin could be planning to announce a full mobilization or a second wave of conscription following the “partial mobilization” in the autumn, before Ukraine recaptured swathes of occupied territory in the east. Credit: Kremlin via Storyful