How to interpret Putin's speech?

Three weeks after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Kremlin leader Putin repeated his justifications for the war in a televised address, saying Russia must defend itself against the attacks of the West. He said the "special military operation" to demilitarise Ukraine was going according to plan. Commentators see the repetition of untruths as a sign of instability.

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Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

A sign of weakness

The ground is crumbling under the Russian president's feet, analyses Helsingin Sanomat:

“Putin's speech was threatening. There is the danger of increasing repression and persecution. Having withdrawn from the Council of Europe this week before it could be expelled, Russia could just as well reintroduce the death penalty. But at the same time the speech was very revealing. The barely concealed anger betrays his helplessness in the face of the fact that the invasion of Ukraine is clearly not going to plan and the Russian economy is in a downward spiral. So Putin's speech was clearly a sign of weakness. The system is collapsing around him. But the near future in Russia is bleak.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Concealing insecurity with brutality

Russia expert Anna Łabuszewska writes in Tygodnik Powszechny:

“When I listened to Putin's speech, I couldn't help feeling that this was a leader trying to convince himself of the correctness of his decisions with the persistent repetition of learned untruths. But he does not come across as being certain of what he says, and covers up this uncertainty with brutality. He justifies his actions by saying he had no alternative but to attack. But then the argumentation becomes incoherent. ... The Russian economy will benefit from the sanctions because it can develop independently, he tells us, while saying in the same breath that these sanctions are an aggression against Russia.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Democracy or Neo-Stalinism

There is no need to look for any supposed logic in Putin's statements, writes Dagens Nyheter:

“Should we still 'explain' Putin's massacre and his demands for 'purges' by saying that he feels oppressed by the West? Or can we just recognise a simple fact: all tyrants need enemies. And they will find them, inside and outside their country's borders. ... Ukraine wants freedom. Putin wants to crush it - there as well as in his own country. And he will not be satisfied with that. The people of Mariupol are dying for us. Democracy stands against neo-Stalinism. There is no compromise between these two world views.”