Over the last couple of days various Telegram channels were publishing some excerpts from a meeting President Putin held with various media personalities about the Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine. Unfortunately, they would post a handful of bullet points about what was said over the course of a 2+ hour conversation. I was interested to hear the whole thing, so I went searching for translation.
I came across the official link that has an English transcript from the meeting with Russian war correspondents. Some are affiliated with TV channels, some with newspapers, and a few have their own Telegram channels.
Just from the photographs published on the official site, some observations: Putin is alone – no aids around him. I clicked through the photos and compared the names (14 individuals + Putin) with the number of people seated around the table (18 individuals + Putin). Given that people on either side of him are identified as journalists in the photos, it is safe to assume that all 18 individuals around the table are journalists. So, Putin is holding this conversation on his own, for 2 hours. The only other people visible in the images are video operators.
The mix of the journalists is also telling. Putin is not sticking to the “official” spokespeople from various MSM, there are true “independent” correspondents. Take Pegov, for example – he has his Telegram channel wargonzo, is often quoted in a couple of English language channels (pro-Russian) and is often criticized for his over-hyping of problems. Pegov is well-known for recording and publishing long videos with Prighozhin (leader of Wagner private military group) that are not very complimentary towards Russian Ministry of Defence. You can easily identify Pegov, because he is the only dickhead who seems to not have bothered to take a shower and has his hat on. He is only talking to the President.
Next, the format of the meeting itself. This is not a townhall, where Putin is on stage, and people are lobbing questions at him. It is not like what we saw with Putin meeting his cabinet or world leaders, where he is seated at one end of a very long table, and others are on the other side. Everybody is sitting around one oval table, in close proximity, so the atmosphere is closer to a family seated around the table at dinner time – it seems more intimate.
Finally, as Putin states a couple of times, there were no “unpleasant” questions – he answered all of them, did not take any on notice, and made some commitments as a result of these conversations. These were not some vague promises to Build Back Better (Biden) or Better Future with Labor (Albo), these were specific areas where he would direct his government to focus on. He openly talked about peace-time generals being ineffective (he called them “carpet knights”) and that they were being replaced by others who “were not visible and not heard, but it turned out that they were very effective and in great demand. Unfortunately, such people are the first to go, because they do not spare themselves – that is the trouble”. Putin freely operated with figures, statistics, names, historic events. He showed that he has his hand on the pulse of the situation through not only through the official reports, but also from conversations with officers on the ground – one example was a battalion commander, the other one was his conversation with a junior lieutenant. Putin was in control of the information.
The transcript of the 2+ hour conversation is a long read, especially if you go back and forth to parse the information being conveyed. But it is well worth a read, in my opinion.
Below are a couple of snippets that should whet your appetite a bit.
On the previously stated goals for the SMO (denazification, demilitarisation, protection of the Russian people)
Yevgeny Poddubny: You have said more than once that all the goals that you set personally for the special military operation will be achieved. The special military operation has lasted a fairly long time. The situation is changing, the position is changing, and probably the goals and tasks of the special military operation are changing as well. Can you tell us how they have changed if at all?
Vladimir Putin: No, they are changing in accordance with the current situation but of course overall we are not changing anything. Our goals are fundamental for us.
Second, a brief look at how the geopolitical situation became what we are witnessing today, from Putin’s / Russian point of view.
Vladimir Putin: And you know, I’ve already said that, no secret here, we did offer every option to our Western partners, as I used to call them, we thought we were one of them, we wanted to be in the family of so-called civilised nations. I reached out to NATO suggesting that we look into that possibility, but we were quickly shown the door; they didn’t even bother to consider it. I also suggested creating a shared missile defence system.
We are aware that the events of the 1990s – early 2000s stem from a bitter historical legacy in the Caucasus, for instance. Who were we fighting there? Mostly, Al-Qaeda. And what did our “partners” do? They supported them by providing financial, information, political and even military support. They did not give a damn about the fact that they were helping Al-Qaeda as long as they were able to rock our boat. Everything they did fit the paradigm of rocking Russia. We left no stone unturned in our efforts and finally agreed that NATO would not be expanded. We came up with every option we could. Still no. Why? It is just because the country is too big: no one needs a country that big and with such great potential in Europe. Everyone tries their hand at gradually breaking Russia into pieces.
Ukraine is part of the effort to destabilise Russia. By and large, this should have been kept in mind when decisions were made on breaking the Soviet Union up. But then, apparently, it was expected that our profound relations would be decisive. But due to a number of historical, economic and political circumstances the situation took a different path. We tried everything on this path as well. In fact, we have, for decades, if not fed, but sustained their economy – you are aware of this, since I have written and talked about it – with cheap energy, other things, loans and so on. To no avail. How did it end eventually? They started killing our supporters in the streets and eventually staged a coup d’etat.
On recent attacks on Russian territory, involving blowing up Dugina and Tatarsky
Yevgeny Poddubny: The enemy’s special services agents are openly working on our territory, openly in the sense of not even denying that they are hunting leaders of public opinion in Russia: the murder of Daria Dugina, the murder of Vladlen Tatarsky, the assassination attempt on Zakhar Prilepin. As a matter of fact, it is clear that the Ukrainian special services are conducting terrorist, sabotage activities in Russia.
How will the Russian state fight the enemy’s agents and the enemy’s special services operating on the territory of Russia?
Vladimir Putin: Your question is very similar to what Alexander has asked, because these activities are essentially equivalent. We must fight, and we are fighting, we are, and some results of this work are becoming public, and the public is familiar with it: the detention of agents and special services officers of a neighbouring state. The work is ongoing.
But I want to point out that we, unlike Ukraine’s current authorities, cannot employ terrorist methods: we still have a state, a country, while it is a regime there. They operate, in fact, as a regime based on terror: they have a very tough counterintelligence regime, martial law. I don’t think we need to do that now. We just need to improve and expand the work of law enforcement agencies and special services. And in general, it seems to me that the tasks in this regard are also solvable.
Publicly humiliating one of the war correspondents who was criticised for his “all is lost” panic attacks that were quoted in various western MSM. Putin doesn’t shy away from telling people how it is.
Alexander Sladkov: Mr President, Alexander Sladkov, VGTRK TV company.
I have four questions for you. The first one is about rotation.
Vladimir Putin: Who is the moderator?
Alexander Sladkov: Mr President, I am the moderator.
Vladimir Putin: You are too close – on the line of contact.
Alexander Sladkov: I am close to the decision-making centre.
Vladimir Putin: No, you are close to the line of contact, and it looks like what was coming from Ukrainian territory got into your system.
Alexander Sladkov: We got drunk on it.
Vladimir Putin: Oh, yes. That spirit of the lack of freedom<emphasis mine – GM>. And you are abusing your position as moderator.
Alexander Sladkov: I confess, I am.
Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.
Yet another example of Putin’s contempt for Sladkov (his rhetorical question quip) but note that Sladkov was still invited to sit at the table!
Vladimir Putin: Look, our troops were outside Kiev. First, we reached an agreement, which turned out to be a good agreement about how to resolve the current situation peacefully. Even though they tossed it, nevertheless, we used this time to get where we are now which is practically all of Novorossiya and a significant portion of the Donetsk People’s Republic with access to the Sea of Azov and Mariupol. And almost all of the Lugansk People’s Republic, with a few exceptions.
Do we need to go back there or not? Why am I asking this rhetorical question? Clearly, you do not have an answer to it, only I can answer that. <emphasis mine – GM> But depending on our goals, we must decide on mobilisation, but there is no need for that today. This is my first point.
Finally, on the “red lines”
Ilya Ushenin: Mr President, I am Ilya Ushenin from NTV.
I have a question about the notorious red lines. Clearly, in the SMO zone, we are at war not just with the Kiev regime, but with the so-called collective West as well. NATO countries are constantly moving and crossing our red lines. We express our concern and keep saying that this is unacceptable, but never come up with actual answers.
Are we going to keep moving our red lines?
Vladimir Putin: Listen, is the special military operation itself not a response to them crossing these lines? This is the first and the most important point. We said many times “Do not do this, let’s do that, we are ready for talks.” In the end, they prompted us to try to use force to end the war that they started in 2014. They keep telling us, “You started the war, Putin is the aggressor.” No, they are the aggressors, they started this war, and we are trying to stop it, but we are compelled to do so with the use of the Armed Forces. Is this not the answer to their crossing the red lines? This is my first point.
Second, not everything may be covered by the media, although there is nothing to be ashamed of. Are strikes on Ukraine’s energy system not an answer to them crossing the red lines? And the destruction of the headquarters of the main intelligence directorate of the armed forces of Ukraine outside Kiev, almost within Kiev’s city limits, is it not the answer? It is.
We will continue to work selectively. We will not do what these halfwits are doing when they target civilian sites and residential areas. Of course, we will not do this. We will continue to provide selective responses.
I suggest you find a bit of time over the coming weekend to read the whole thing. It does paint a perspective not shown in the regular MSM.