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“Unlike the West, we keep out of other countries’ backyards.” Ten major fakes from Vladimir Putin's Valdai speech

At a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, Vladimir Putin spoke about how unjust and destructive it is for humanity to have a world order based on Western liberal values, and how Russia defends the diversity of traditional ways of life in different civilizations. It took an assortment of fakes to justify this point. It’s beyond The Insider's capabilities to expose all of them, so we have selected ten most striking examples.

  • How the U.S. financed Euromaidan

  • How Russia is not funding the opposition in the West

  • How the West “nurtured” and financed Chechen separatism

  • How Ukraine resisted the implementation of the Minsk agreements

  • How Lenin gave Donbass to Ukraine at the last moment

  • How Russian culture is prohibited in the West

  • How the West imposes unconventional values on other countries

  • How the European Union abandoned its Christian values

  • About the antique roots of Russia

  • Once again about the “golden billion”

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How the U.S. financed Euromaidan

“Western governments <...> conduct all kinds of coups. One of them led to the tragic consequences in Ukraine in 2014 - they did support it, even told how much money they spent on this coup. That’s plain rude, they are quite shameless.”

Putin did not name the exact amount of money spent by Western governments to support the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity, but since 2014 the Russian media have mentioned a sum of $5 billion. Apparently, the figure was borrowed from a speech by the then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at the 2013 Ukraine in Washington conference, where she said that the sum had been allocated to support democracy in Ukraine.

However, the Russian media and politicians, in particular State Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, distorted the content of the interview. In fact, Nuland said in 2013 that the sum had been allocated to Ukraine over the 22 years of its independence for “developing democratic skills and institutions, promoting civil society and a good form of government.” In a 2014 interview with CNN, Nuland emphasized that the U.S. had not allocated any money to support Euromaidan, which she called a “spontaneous movement.”

How Russia is not funding the opposition in the West

“We don't do <...> any work with the opposition, practically at the level of special services, as the West does with us and with our opposition. We know that hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars are being spent on supporting the opposition, in all areas, through various channels, and they have come up with a lot of ways to send financial resources to Russia for these purposes. We can’t even keep track of it. But are not doing anything like that.”

Here Putin's memory fails him: he forgets that a bank close to the Russian authorities financed French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Front. As French journalists wrote, Le Pen received the loan from the First Czech-Russian Bank through the mediation of Senator Alexander Babakov (at the time he was a State Duma deputy, headed the commission on legal support for the development of organizations within the defense-industrial complex of Russia and was already under Ukrainian sanctions). The bank itself was owned by Stroytransgaz, owned, in turn, by oligarch Gennady Timchenko, who was close to Putin; then it passed on to Roman Popov, who had previously headed the financial department of Stroytransgaz. Popov himself was no stranger to the Russian authorities - for example, together with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, he co-chaired the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight into space.

How the West “nurtured” and financed Chechen separatism

“I will always remember what I faced in 2000, after I was elected president. I will always remember the price we paid to destroy the terrorist nest in the North Caucasus, which the West almost openly supported at the time. All of you here are adults, most of you in this room understand what I am talking about. We know that this is exactly what happened in practice: financial, political and information support. We all lived through it. Moreover, [the West] not only actively supported terrorists on the Russian territory, but in many ways nurtured this threat. We know this.”

In 22 years, Putin has never offered any proof that the Chechen wars were the result of Western intrigue. The establishment of the All-National Congress of the Chechen People (OKChN) in 1990, under the leadership of Dzhokhar Dudayev, was the prelude for the first Chechen war. The Congress's aim was to secede from the Soviet Union and establish an independent Chechen state. A year later Dudayev proclaimed the Chechen Republic. This was followed by the storming of the building of the Supreme Soviet of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR, the television center and the radio house, and the assassination of the chairman of Grozny City Council Vitaly Kutsenko. It remains a mystery where Putin found “the West’s hand” in these events.

Public opinion in Western countries was indeed not on the side of the Russian leadership. However, rather than political issues it had to do with human rights violations by Russian forces: murders, kidnappings, and torture, particularly of civilians. In October 2000, Human Rights Watch published its 99-page report “Welcome to Hell,” which describes how thousands of Chechens were detained by Russian troops, many without any evidence of wrongdoing. The guards systematically beat the Chechen prisoners, and some of them were also raped or subjected to other forms of torture. Most were released only after their families paid large bribes to Russian officials. The UN Commission on Human Rights adopted two resolutions in 2000 and 2001 condemning human rights violations in Chechnya and demanding that Russia set up an independent national commission of inquiry. The Council of Europe, in numerous resolutions between 2003 and 2007, called on Russia to stop human rights violations. Between 2005 and 2007, the European Court of Human Rights heard cases brought by Chechens against the Russian government, and in many of those cases Russia was found guilty. Perhaps the monetary compensations, which the ECHR awarded to the victims, are, in Putin's understanding, “financial support of terrorists.”

How Ukraine resisted the implementation of the Minsk agreements

“Former President [of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma] said he did sign the Minsk agreements, yet he proceeded from the assumption that they would never be implemented. What more evidence do you need?”

In fact, the second president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, said something different. As he claimed in early 2019, the leaders of the Normandy format - German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin - did not want to commit to implementing the Minsk agreements, so they would not sign them:

“I’ve never said so, but I will say it today. Considering that I signed these Minsk agreements... You see, if the leaders who are part of the Normandy format did not personally put their signatures - neither Hollande, nor Merkel, let alone Putin... What does that tell you? They did not believe it would be implemented, and they did not want to commit themselves by signing this document. Hence the results.”

How Lenin gave Donbass to Ukraine at the last moment

“They handed over all of Malorossia, all of the Black Sea region, all of Donbass, but at first decided to give Donbass to Russia and then the Ukrainian delegation came to Vladimir Lenin, and he called the representative of Donbass and said the issue must be decided again. So, they reconsidered, and they gave it back to Ukraine.”

Putin here deliberately ignores the historical context - for example, the fact that before the establishment of Soviet power in Ukraine, there was the Ukrainian People's Republic, which in April 1918 liberated the Donbass from the Bolsheviks. At the same time, the UPR only claimed the Kharkov and Ekaterinoslav provinces in the east, where the majority of the population were Ukrainians at the time. They are now part of Donbass - for example, Luhansk was part of the Ekaterinoslav province.

Putin is also silent on events closer to our time - for example, the all-Ukrainian referendum of 1991, in which both the Donetsk and Lugansk regions each gave 83% of the votes to declare Ukraine's independence from the USSR.

How Russian culture is prohibited in the West

“In their time, the Nazis came to the point of burning books, and now the Western “advocates of liberalism and progress” have stooped so low as to prohibit Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky.”

It is enough to look at the billboards of the most important opera houses in Europe and America to see that this is not true. La Monnaie in Brussels hosts Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, the Metropolitan Opera in New York presents Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the Royal Opera House in London hosts Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty, and the Opéra National de Paris hosts Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, the Munich Bayerische Staatsoper hosts Shostakovich's Nose (directed by the Russian Kirill Serebrennikov), and at the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden hosts Richard Wagner's cult opera tetralogy Ring des Nibelungen staged by the Russian theater director Dmitry Chernyakov.

There have, however, been cases in the West where Russian culture related events were cancelled. For example, at the Grand Theater in Warsaw, director Mariusz Treliński decided to cancel the already rehearsed premiere of Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, writing on the theater's website, “At times like this, the opera is silenced. Let this silence be a voice of solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” At Milan's Bicocca University, a series of four lectures on Dostoyevsky were postponed indefinitely in March, but a few days later they reversed that decision, which proved highly unpopular. All of these incidents, very few in number, were local initiatives and took place in the first months after Russia's attack on Ukraine under the influence of emotion.

How the West imposes unconventional values on other countries

“If Western elites believe they can inculcate in the minds of their people and societies some strange, in my opinion, and newfangled tendencies like dozens of genders and gay parades, then so be it. Let them do what they want! But what they certainly do not have the right to do is to demand that others follow suit. We see that Western countries have complicated demographic, political, and social processes. Of course, it’s their internal affair. Russia does not interfere in these issues and does not intend to do so - unlike the West, we keep out of other counties’ backyards.”

There has never been a case in which the West demanded that a foreign state recognize more than two genders. Putin may be referring to several ECHR judgments which have found violations of the rights of sexual minorities in Russia. For example, in 2021 the ECHR held that denial of registration of same-sex marriages was a violation of the right of respect for private and family life. But human rights, as stated in the OSCE Astana Declaration, which was also signed by Russia, “are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the state concerned.” So, in this case there can be no question of interference in internal affairs.

How the European Union abandoned its Christian values

“For example, the Hungarian parliamentarians' July proposal to fix in the EU treaty a commitment to European Christian values and culture was perceived not even as an opposition, but as a direct hostile sabotage. What is this? How is this to be understood?”

The resolution passed by the Hungarian parliament on July 19 indeed mentions “Christian roots and culture in Europe,” which, according to Hungarian parliamentarians, should be codified in treaties as a basis for European integration. But it was not this provision (which in itself sounds strange, if only because there is Turkey among the candidates for EU membership, whose roots are not at all Christian) that caused an extremely negative reaction in Europe, but the idea of giving national parliaments the right to veto any laws proposed at the EU level. In essence, it was a rejection of the very idea of European integration.

About the antique roots of Russia

“You simply need to understand clearly that there are, as I said before, two Wests, at least two, and maybe more, but at least two: the West of traditional, first of all, Christian values: freedom, patriotism, rich culture – and now also of Islamic values (many western countries have a considerable part of their population practicing Islam). This West is close to us in some respects; in many respects we have common, even antique, roots.”

Antique roots are indeed of great political importance for the West: the very notion of democracy has ancient Greek origins and Roman law is still the basis of modern jurisprudence. Except that antiquity has nothing to do with Christianity, Islam, or Russia.

Once again about the “golden billion”

“If you add it all up, if you put it all together as a range of opportunities that need to be realized, then the economic model itself and the financial system will conform to the interests of the majority, not just the so-called “golden billion” we were talking about. I stand for what I just said: for democratic relations, taking into account the interests of all participants in international communication, not just the interests of the so-called golden billion.”

Putin's favorite concept of the “golden billion” is a conspiracy theory, according to which the resources of the planet are limited, and the richest countries, with a total population of about a billion people, artificially hinder the development of the other countries in order to get all the resources. This idea is unknown either in the West or anywhere else except for the post-Soviet countries. The expression “golden billion” apparently first appeared in 1990, when a little-known magazine Voskresenye published an article by the Soviet economist Anatoly Tsikunov (pseudonym A. Kuzmich) “What is the “golden billion” of people on Earth, and why are Soviet people getting poorer?” The author argued that perestroika in the USSR was part of a worldwide perestroika, the purpose of which was to subjugate the rest of the world to the developed countries of the West and, with the help of transnational corporations, turn it into a resource colony. According to the Soviet dogmatist, the transition to capitalist relations in the USSR was undertaken in order to give transnational corporations access to the country’s resources. In Russia, this conspiracy concept is still popular in some circles, although its proponents cannot explain why the standard of living in Third World countries rises and their pace of development quickens with the arrival of transnational corporations and not vice versa, as their theory predicts.

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