Posts tagged with "Russian President Vladimir Putin"

Putin ominously warns Sweden of Russian ‘response’ if it joins NATO alongside Finland

May 17, 2022

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday, May 16, that her nation will formally apply to join NATO; in unity with Finland, which had stated its intentions the day before.

Her announcement came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that there will be consequences that “could be nuclear” if both countries join forces with the North Atlantic alliance, reports Forbes.

Andersson confirmed Sweden’s NATO bid a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto  announced  his country’s intention to join the alliance.

Speaking at a meeting in Moscow earlier Monday with several Kremlin-aligned leaders, Putin said Sweden and Finland joining NATO would “certainly provoke our response” according to Reuters’ translation  of his comments.

According to Forbes, Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids break a long history of neutrality for the Nordic countries in a move that would add a significant land border between Russia and the military alliance—and represent a major fallout from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which Putin said was due to NATO’s increasing eastern presence.

Putin did not specify on Monday what Russia may do, should its Nordic neighbors join NATO, saying Russia “will see what threats are created for us,” according to Reuters.

Although Putin didn’t say Monday, the Kremlin has previously suggested it may respond to Finland and Sweden’s NATO potential accession with nuclear weapons.

Last month, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said Russia may deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea, should Finland and Sweden join NATO—and a presenter on the state-run Russia-1 television station said on May 15 that Russia will have “no choice” but to deploy nuclear weapons to “neutralize” the threat, according to the BBC’s translation.

Putin said Monday he has “no problem” with Finland and Sweden and that the two joining NATO doesn’t pose a “direct threat” to Russia, The New York Times reported.

Putin’s statement strays from the Kremlin’s prior comments about the countries’ NATO bids, as the Russian Foreign Ministry said last week that the move would threaten to upend the “stability and security” of Northern Europe, indicating the Russian government is on its back foot following the historic applications from Finland and Sweden.

Research contact: @Forbes

Mike Pence to campaign for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp ahead of primary

May 16, 2022

Former Vice President Mike Pence will rally support for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp as the Republican incumbent seeks to fend off a May 24 primary challenge from Donald Trump-backed former Senator David Perdue.

CNN reports that the decision by Pence to campaign for one of Trump’s top GOP targets marks yet  another break with his former boss, after saying earlier this year that the former president was “wrong” in his belief that Pence could have overturned the results of the 2020 election.

Pence will rally with Kemp on Monday, May 16, a day before the Republican primary, which has turned into a proxy fight between the establishment and Trump wings of the GOP.

“Brian Kemp is one of the most successful conservative governors in America,” Pence said in a statement released Friday. “Brian Kemp is my friend, a man dedicated to faith, family, and the people of Georgia. I am proud to offer my full support for four more years of Brian Kemp as governor of the great state of Georgia!”

Kemp said in a statement on Friday, May 13, that he and his family are “honored” to have Pence’s support and touted his leadership as vice president. Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, is a senior adviser on Kemp’s campaign.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Kemp for his role in certifying Georgia’s 2020 election results and has claimed that Republicans would stay home in November if the governor is the party’s nominee. Perdue has centered his campaign on lies about the 2020 election results in Georgia and has called Kemp a “weak” leader.

Despite the attacks from Trump and Perdue, Kemp has maintained a lead in the polls. And while there is frustration among many Republicans over Kemp certifying the 2020 election in Georgia for President Joe Biden; some voters who back Perdue have said that, even if he loses the primary, they would still back the incumbent governor in the fall.

Pence is not the only high-profile Republican bolstering support for Kemp. Governors Pete Ricketts of Nebraska and Doug Ducey of Arizona, as well as former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—all of whom have clashed with Trump— will also campaign for Kemp ahead of the Georgia primary, a source familiar with the plans previously told CNN.

Ricketts and Ducey are co-chairs of the Republican Governors Association, which has poured money into the race to support Kemp, including a large TV ad buy in the state.

Pence, who in the past loyally aligned himself with Trump and his political movement, has increasingly taken on the former President in public—most notably on the 2020 election, but also in regard to other matters, such as Trump’s praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Research contact: @CNN

Report: Putin to undergo cancer surgery, transfer power to ex-FSB chief

May 3, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to undergo cancer surgery and temporarily hand over power to a hardline former federal police chief, according to a new report.

Putin will transfer control of Russia’s government to Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian federal police’s Security Council, while he is incapacitated during and after the procedure, according to a video from the mysterious Telegram channel, “General SVR,” on Saturday, April 30, reports The New York Post.

The channel—which is purportedly run by a former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service lieutenant general known by the pseudonym “Viktor Mikhailovich” — reported that Putin has been told by doctors that he must undergo an operation.

The anticipated surgery and recovery are expected to incapacitate Putin for “a short time,” according to the unconfirmed report.

Putin is unlikely to agree to hand over power for a longer period of time,” the narrator of the video states—adding that the control of the country will likely be in Patrushev’s hands for no more than two to three days. 

“I will say that this is the worst option,” the narrator adds. “Patrushev is an outright villain. He is no better than Vladimir Putin. Moreover, he is a more cunning, and I would say, more insidious person than Vladimir Putin. If he comes to power, Russians’ problems will only multiply.”

“Viktor Mikhailovich” ominously hinted that he and his allies “will make certain efforts so this does not happen, and I hope we will succeed.”

\The video follows reporting from Russian investigative outlet The Project, which — in a sizeable report on the strongman’s vigorclaimed he has been seen by a cancer doctor 35 times in recent years. Indeed, an oncologist, identified by the outlet as Evgeny Selivanov, has reportedly made dozens of secret visits to Putin’s Sochi getaway home over just four years.

Putin has become so paranoid about his health, the outlet claimed, he has even turned to unconventional, and barbaric, therapies. Putin is said to bathe in the blood extracted from deer antlers, which are hacked off while they are growing and still full of fresh blood, the outlet said. The sickening “antler baths” are an alternative therapy in the Altai region of Russia, which borders Khazakstan and Mongolia.  Believers say the baths improve the cardiovascular system and rejuvenate the skin, The Project explained.

The report also suggests the Russian president secretly underwent surgery last autumn.“In medical circles, it is believed that the president was undergoing a complicated procedure related to some kind of thyroid disease during this period.”

Saturday’s video claimed that Putin’s cancer is progressing, but the narrator darkly quipped that he doesn’t want to give viewers “false hope.”

Putin, 70, whose sickly appearance and uncharacteristically fidgety behavior in public have recently raised questions about his health, has been rumored to suffer from cancer and a host of other serious maladies, including Parkinson’s disease.

His suspected health problems come at a particularly inopportune moment, with the war in Ukraine now in its fourth month and Russia suffering heavy losses on the battlefield.

In a Telegram post that appeared on Thursday, April 28, it was alleged that Patrushev had had a two-hour “heart-to-heart” conversation with Putin.

“We know that Putin signaled to Patrushev that he considers him to be practically his only trusted ally and friend in the government,” the post claimed. “Additionally, the president promised that if his health takes a turn for the worse, actual control of the country will temporarily pass into Patrushev’s hands.”

In early April, the authors behind the Telegram channel claimed that Putin’s doctors had recommended surgery for later that month, but that did not happen.

“General SVR” has been reporting on Putin’s supposed oncology diagnosis since at least November 2020—claiming that the Russian dictator suffers from bowel cancer.

New questions were raised about Putin’s physical state last month when he was seen tightly gripping a desk during his meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The Kremlin has consistently denied that Putin suffers from any medical problems

Research contact: @nypost

Bloated Vladimir Putin video emboldens chatter that Russian leader is sick

April 25, 2022

New video shows Russian President Vladimir Putin looking bloated and awkwardly gripping a table for support—heightening suspicions that the warmongering president is seriously ill, reports The New York Post.

The footage— released by the Kremlin on Thursday, April 21—shows Putin, 69, tightly gripping the table with his right hand as soon as he sits down; then, keeping it there throughout the nearly 12-minute clip.

Putin sits with hunched shoulders and regularly fidgets and taps his toes during the briefing with his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, who also is rumored to be suffering health woes.

The clip shows Putin and his key adviser “both depressed & seemingly in bad health,”  tweeted Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist who was previously an adviser to Russia.

Former UK politician Louise Mensch said that  the footage appeared to back earlier reports that “Vladimir Putin has Parkinson’s D

isease.”

“Here you can see him gripping the table so that his shaking hand is not visible but he cannot stop his foot from tapping,” she wrote.

Other reports have suggested that Putin has recently had 35 secret meetings with a cancer doctor— and has been bathing in the blood of deer antlers. The Kremlin has denied he has the disease.

Professor Erik Bucy, a body language expert from Texas Tech University, noted to The Sun that Putin’s face looked clearly bloated, saying it “reinforces an unhealthy appearance.”

“It’s an astonishingly weakened Putin compared to the man we observed even a few years ago,” Bucy told the outlet.

“An able-bodied president would not need to keep himself propped up with a hand held out for leverage and would not be concerned about keeping both feet planted on the ground.”

Research contact: @nypost

How Biden sparked a global uproar with nine ad-libbed words about Putin

March 29, 2022

During his presidential campaign, President Biden often reminded his audience about the heavy weight that the words of a president can carry. “The words of a president matter,” he said more than once. “They can move markets. They can send our brave men and women to war. They can bring peace.”

They can also, as Biden discovered on March 26, spark a global uproar in the middle of a war, reports The Washington Post.

With nine ad-libbed words at the end of a 27-minute speech, Biden created an unwanted distraction to his otherwise forceful remarks by calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be pushed out of office.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said.

It was a remarkable statement that would reverse stated U.S. policy–directly countering claims from senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who have insisted regime change is not on the table.

It went further than even U.S. presidents during the Cold War, and immediately reverberated around the world as world leaders, diplomats, and foreign policy experts sought to determine what Biden said, what it meant—and, if he didn’t mean it, why he said it.

Shortly after the speech, a White House official sought to clarify the comments.

“The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia or regime change,” the official said.

Biden’s line was not planned and came as a surprise to U.S. officials, according to a person familiar with the speech who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive situation. In the immediate aftermath of the remark, reporters rushed to find Biden aides and seek clarity on the president seemingly supporting a regime change in Russia.

But Biden aides demurred, refusing to comment as they scrambled to craft a response.

White House officials were adamant the remark was not a sign of a policy change, but they did concede it was just the latest example of Biden’s penchant for stumbling off message. And like many of his unintended comments, they came at the end of his speech as he ad-libbed and veered from the carefully crafted text on the teleprompter.

“The speech was quite remarkable,” said Aaron David Miller, a veteran diplomat and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “This is one of those speeches where the one-liner in many ways drowns out the intent of the speech. Because that’s exactly what people are focusing on.”

Miller said that had the White House not immediately clarified, the comment would have led to a significant shift in policy and signaled to Putin that the United States would attempt to drive him out of office. It is unclear what the full impact of the comment may be in coming days.

“I’m risk averse by nature, especially with a guy who has nuclear weapons,” he said. “But will it have operational consequences? I don’t know.”

It likely signals to Putin what he already suspected about Biden’s true feelings, and it almost certainly will be used as part of Russia’s propaganda.

“I guess you can call this a gaffe from the heart,” Miller said. “If Biden could close his eyes tomorrow and have 10 wishes, one would be there’s a leadership change in Russia.”

But the comment also seemed to provide a window into Biden’s current thinking, and some of the mind-set that the Administration has with regard to Putin.

“What it tells me, and worries me, is that the top team is not thinking about plausible war termination,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the book The Art of War in an Age of Peace: U.S. Grand Strategy and Resolute Restraint.

“If they were, Biden’s head wouldn’t be in a place where he’s saying, ‘Putin must go.’ The only way to get to war termination is to negotiate with this guy,” O’Hanlon said.

“When you say this guy must go you’ve essentially declared you’re not going to do business with him,” he added. “However appealing at an emotional level, it’s not going to happen. We can’t control it, and it probably won’t take place anytime soon.”

Over the past few weeks, Biden’s rhetoric on Putin—a man he once recounted telling to his face, “I don’t think you have a soul”—has become increasingly pointed. He has called him a “butcher,” “pure thug,” and a “murderous dictator.” So saying that he should be removed from power could viewed as the logical next step.

It also is in line with Biden at times articulating policy before his aides are ready. Last week, he called Putin a “war criminal,” which White House aides quickly said was simply him “speaking from the heart.” But within a few days, U.S. policy changed as Blinken also called Putin a war criminal and released a formal assessment on war crimes committed by Russia.

Biden’s comment was particularly striking because his Administration has taken pains to avoid even implying that regime change is a goal of the Western response to Russia’s aggression.

Kremlin spokesman Demitry Peskov told state news agencies, “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Ukraine launches NFT sale to fund fight against Russia

March 28, 2022

Ukraine is selling nonfungible tokens (NFTs) inspired by Russia’s invasion, with the proceeds going toward the support of the nation’s army and civilians, Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov  announced on Friday, March 25, reports Forbes.

The project, part of the Meta Museum History of War, aims to memorialize the invasion, “spread truthful information” online and to collect donations for Ukraine, according to the website.

The 54 NFTs that make up the collection so far explore the events of the Russian invasion chronologically, with pieces inspired by landmarks in the conflict—starting with the February 24 announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin of what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Buyers will be able to purchase the NFTs with ether, and all proceeds will go directly to the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation.

The sale’s format and prices will be announced in the coming days, a representative told Forbes, saying they hope the project raises millions of dollars for Ukraine.

More NFTs are in the works, the representative told Forbes, and the museum plans to create digital collectibles to “continue depicting … history until this awful war will end.”

To date, Ukraine has received $65.9 million in cryptocurrency to help fund its war efforts. Earlier this month, an NFT of the Ukrainian flag sold for roughly $6.75 million, with proceeds going to Come Back Alive, a group that supports the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Ukraine, which in 2019 established its Ministry of Digital Transformation, has used the internet and crypto to help wage a “digital battle” against Russia. Federov has used his Twitter account to shame companies still operating in Russia, as many choose to suspend business there amid the invasion.

The ministry also has  directed  hackers—who are volunteers and not officially affiliated with the Ukrainian government—to temporarily take down websites for the Moscow Exchange and other Russian institutions.

“We are the first in the world to introduce this new warfare. And it’s powerful, yet simple at the same time,” Oleksandr Bornyakov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation, told Politico earlier this month. “It’s impossible to disrupt it or break it down.”

Research contact: @Forbes

Zelensky renews call for help, EU membership: ‘Prove you are with us’

March 2, 2022

Amid intensifying Russian attacks on Ukraine, the country’s president delivered an emotional video address to the European Parliament, telling European Union leaders that his compatriots are dying to achieve freedom and equality, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“We are giving our lives for the right to be equal,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the special session of the EU’s legislature. “Prove that you are with us and will not let us go.”

Unshaven and clad in a green army T-shirt, seated in front of a blank wall next to a Ukrainian flag, Zelensky spoke extemporaneously for more than seven minutes and made a point that he wasn’t delivering prepared remarks.

“I don’t read off the sheet because the paper phase in the life of my country has ended,” he said, waving a sheet of paper. “We’re dealing with killed people, with real life, you know?”

Zelensky reiterated a recent call for the EU to grant Ukraine membership. In comments following Zelensky’s address, European Council President Charles Michel —who represents the leaders of the 27 EU countries—said the Ukrainian request to be a candidate for EU membership should be given serious consideration.

Officials from the bloc’s 27 member states, which would need to approve the candidacy, discussed Ukraine’s EU bid on Monday, February 28.

Zelensky said two cruise missiles had hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Tuesday morning, killing dozens of people. He explained that the city, near Russia, has long been a point of friendly exchange between the two countries and has more than 20 universities. In its center is Freedom Square, the largest square in Ukraine and, Zelensky said, the largest in Europe.

“Can you imagine, this morning two cruise missiles hit this Freedom Square, with dozens killed at once,” Mr. Zelensky said, visibly angry. “This is the price of freedom.”

Zelensky also said Russian forces killed 16 children on Monday, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his forces are targeting military installations and infrastructure.

“Where are our children? What kind of military factories do they work at?” Mr. Zelensky said. “He killed 16 people just yesterday,” he said of Putin.

“We are fighting for our rights. For our freedom. For our lives,” Mr. Zelensky said. “And now we are fighting for our survival.”

The address received a standing ovation that lasted for more than a minute.

Research contact: @WSJ

White House: Additional sanctions on Russia could come ‘at any moment’

February 24, 2022

A White House national security official said on Wednesday, February 23, that the Biden Administration could levy additional sanctions on Russia “at any moment”—another sign that America is willing to further punish the Kremlin as the situation evolves in Ukraine, reports The Hill.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh argued on CNN’s early morning talk show, New Day, that the sanctions imposed on Tuesday by the United States were significant—noting that they hit major Russian financial institutions, several Russian oligarchs, and Russian sovereign debt.

“These costs are going to escalate from here. The two largest banks in the Russian economy are $750 billion in assets under management; that’s ten times larger,” Singh said. “Our export controls, which can deny all of the critical technology inputs to Russia, have yet to be unveiled. We can unveil those at any moment.” 

He added, “Russia’s already feeling the pain. … This is all because of the signaling of sanctions, and now we’re starting to deliver.”

Singh, who appeared in the White House briefing room on Tuesday, argued that sanctions are not meant to be used simply to inflict pain for their own sake, but to deter and prevent Russia from further invading Ukraine.

“Sometimes I wonder if there’s almost a bloodlust out there for sanctions as an end to themselves,” Singh said, pointing to media questions about why the Administration has gradually unveiled sanctions. “But let me just be really clear: We did hit hard yesterday.”

 President Biden and European allies on Tuesday unveiled an initial round of sanctions after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine as independent republics, setting the stage for Moscow to provide military support to Russian-backed separatists in the area.

Biden expressed concern that Putin’s actions were a precursor to a larger invasion of Ukraine, and he vowed that the United States and its allies were united and willing to impose additional sanctions.

Germany rescinded its certification on Tuesday for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany; and the pipeline could be a target for additional sanctions down the road.

Research contact: @thehill

Biden agrees ‘in principle’ to meet with Putin, if Russia has not invaded Ukraine

Febraury 22, 2022

U.S. President Joe Biden has accepted “in principle” a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in what could represent a last-ditch effort at diplomacy over tensions surrounding Ukraine and a possible avenue to avert a looming invasion directed by Moscow, reports CNBC.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Sunday evening, February 20,  that the summit between the two world leaders would happen following a meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. That meeting is scheduled for later this week.

Psaki noted that the agreement is conditioned on Moscow holding off on an invasion.

“As the President has repeatedly made clear, we are committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins,” Psaki said in a statement. “President Biden accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin following that engagement, again, if an invasion hasn’t happened. We are always ready for diplomacy.”

The Kremlin said on Monday, February 21, that there were currently no concrete plans for a meeting between Putin and Biden, according to Reuters.

News of a possible one-on-one between Biden and Putin comes as the White House warns that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could come at any time. Moscow has for weeks built up its military force on its ex-Soviet neighbor’s northern and eastern borders, with recent totals putting Russia’s force at about 190,000.

Research contact: @CNBC

Biden-Putin summit: U.S. and Russian leaders meet for tense Geneva talks

June 17, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met in Geneva, Switzerland on June 16 for four hours during their first, highly-anticipated summit, the BBC reports.

The talks came at a time when both sides describe relations as being “at rock bottom.” President Biden had said that he expected no major breakthroughs —but hoped to find small areas of agreement.

Among the topics that were slated to be covered, according to the BBC, were the following:

  • Diplomacy: The two sides are expected to discuss the withdrawal of their ambassadors, who returned home amid heightened tensions. America has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and shut down two compounds in recent years; while U.S. missions in Russia are set to be barred from employing locals, meaning dramatic cuts in services including visas.
  • Arms control: Officials also believe there could be common ground on arms control. In February, the countries extended their New Start nuclear arms control treaty. Russia wants this to be further extended.
  • Cyberattacks: Biden is expected to raise concerns over recent cyberattacks that the United States has linked to Russia-based hackers. Putin has denied Russian involvement.
  • Elections: The issue of alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections is also likely to come up. Again, Putin denies any involvement.
  • Prisoners:The families of two former U.S.Marines who are being held in Russian prisons have pressed for their release ahead of the summit. Asked if he would be willing to negotiate on a prisoner swap, Putin told NBC News, “Of course”
  • Navalny:The Russian side has called the alleged poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny an internal political matter. But a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press news agency that there is “no issue that is off the table for the president.”
  • Ukraine: Relations with America when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. There have been warnings this year of a build-up of Russian troops in Crimea and near Ukraine’s border,sparking concerns of preparations for war. Putin also has baulked recently at the idea of Ukrainian membership of NATO.
  • Syria:Biden is expected to appeal to Russia not to close the only remaining UN aid corridor from Turkey into opposition-held northwest Syria. A vote on r-authorizing the corridor will be held by the UN Security Council, in which Russia—which supports Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad—has veto power

According to The New York Times, emerging from his first meeting with Biden since his election as U.S. president, Putin began by saying the talks had gone well—but it soon became clear that tensions between the countries may be unlikely to ease significantly any time soon.

Putin denied that Russia has played a role in a spate of increasingly bold cyberattacks against U.S. institutions, and said the United States was the biggest offender.

The Times reported that the Russian leader’s remarks suggested that he was not interested in discussing what Biden had said was a key objective of the talks: to establish some “guardrails” about what kinds of attacks on critical infrastructure are off limits in peacetime.

Putin did suggest that there had been some kind of agreement to establish expert groups to examine these issues, but U.S. officials fear it is little more than a ploy to tie the matter up in committee.

“There has been no hostility,” Putin declared. “On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit.”

Addressing reporters at the Geneva villa where the meeting took place, the Russian president said: “Both sides expressed their intention to understand each other and seek common ground. The talks were quite constructive.”

Research contact: @BBCNews