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Antifake

His reality vs. ours: 9 falsehoods in Vladimir Putin’s Results of the Year

The Results of the Year, a format combining Russian President Vladimir Putin's big press conference and live call-in show, went on for over four hours. Putin was seated with his back to a screen displaying questions submitted via SMS and online. Some of those questions would’ve been incredibly uncomfortable for him, had he chosen to react to them – which he didn't. A particularly eye-catching example was “Why does your reality diverge from ours?” Much of what Putin said this time was indeed at odds with reality – in particular, his old stories about the West staging the coup d'état in Ukraine, the desperate situation in Donbas that forced Russia to launch the so-called “special military operation”, and Stepan Bandera, a “Nazi” revered by many Ukrainians, being personally involved in the genocide of the Jews. To save time, we'll focus on some of his newer inventions.

Content
  • On pension increase vs. utility rates growth

  • On spiking prices for chicken eggs

  • On partial closure of gas transit via Ukraine and Poland

  • On Armenia's recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan

  • On history textbooks

  • On Aurus, Russia's domestically manufactured car

  • On Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign

  • On labor migrants in Russia

  • Yet another pseudo-Bismarck

RU

On pension increase vs. utility rates growth

In response to the question about pension increases failing to compensate for rising housing and utility rates, Putin said:

“The pension is supposed to be indexed by 7.5%, which will hopefully exceed the inflation rate. What I’d like to point out is that we’ve indexed pensions for previous years. Pensions were indexed by 10%, and by another 4% in the spring to make up for the inflation. Early next year, they will be indexed again. As for utility rates, we haven’t raised them since last June, and the next increase isn't scheduled until July 2024.”

In reality, Russia's utility rates were raised twice in 2022. Starting July 1, 2023, they grew by 2.9-6.5% depending on the region: thus, Moscow saw a spike of 6%, and St. Petersburg, of 6.3%. The second increase, by 9%, took effect on December 1.

Simple calculations reveal that Moscow residents, for one, had their pensions increased by a total of 14.4% in 2023, while their housing and utilities tariffs grew by 15.54%.

On spiking prices for chicken eggs

“Do you know what happened? The nation’s income is on a slow increase. Salary levels and so on. The demand [for eggs] has also increased. They were always a relatively cheap and popular source of protein. I'm a fan of sunny-side-up eggs myself. ... So here's what happened. The demand has grown, but the production volume hasn’t.”

It’s hard to fathom why rising incomes would lead to a dramatic spike in demand for one of the cheapest products. Mikhail Burmistrov, the CEO of the Russian company INFOLine-Analytica, suggested a more logical explanation: Russians are forced to switch to cheaper foods because of the general rise in food prices.

“We are now seeing a general rise in meat prices: both beef and pork are becoming more expensive, and overall, faced with high inflation expectations and higher inflation rates, the end consumer is switching to cheaper protein.”

In his comment for the BBC, Burmistrov notes that chicken, which was the most affordable meat, already showed a substantial price growth of 27% from the beginning of 2023 to the end of October. And while the rise in chicken prices has slowed markedly in recent months, the product has become less affordable for many Russians.

“As a side effect, the consumer is reconsidering their protein sources,” concludes Burmistrov. “An alternative to chicken meat is an even cheaper protein source: the chicken egg.”

Notably, Russia has failed to ensure self-sufficiency in the production of hatching eggs for years, remaining dependent on their import. Sfera.fm, a Russian food industry portal, wrote in late January 2023:

“The need for imported hatching eggs is gradually decreasing, Sergei Lakhtyukhov, CEO of the National Union of Poultry Breeders, announced at AGROS-2023. In his statement, which was examined by the editorial staff of Sfera.fm, the expert noted that the imports of hatching eggs had already decreased by more than one-third in 2022 compared to 2021. … By the end of 2023, domestic supplies of hatching eggs will have covered almost 100% of the demand.”

The current situation may well have resulted from these exact import substitution efforts.

On partial closure of gas transit via Ukraine and Poland

“The fact that Europe is under-receiving gas is their problem. Oddly enough, they tried to pin it on us, saying we weren't selling enough. This is complete nonsense because the responsibility for closing the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline lies entirely with Poland; as for closing the second branch of the gas pipeline through Ukraine, it was Ukraine's doing.”

In May 2022, Ukraine's Gas Transportation System declared the occurrence of “force majeure circumstances” that made it impossible to continue pumping gas through the Sokhranivka gas metering station and the Novopskov compressor station in the Luhansk Region (the Soyuz gas pipeline), as they were on Russia-occupied territory and the GTS had therefore lost control over the equipment.

Ukraine proposed to transfer the volumes of gas passing through Soyuz to the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhhorod gas pipeline via the Sudzha gas metering station. Russia’s Gazprom refused, citing technical impossibility. The Ukrainian side considers this an excuse, as Sudzha currently has three gas pipelines with a total technical throughput capacity of more than twice the transit flow through Ukraine's GTS under the current contractual obligations passing through it.

Meanwhile, May 2022 saw Russia impose counter-sanctions against several European companies, including Poland's EuRoPol GAZ, the operator of the Polish section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. Gazprom's spokesperson Sergei Kupriyanov commented:

“The government has imposed a ban on transactions and payments to the benefit of sanctioned individuals; in particular, for Gazprom, it means a ban on the use of the gas pipeline owned by EuRoPol GAZ to transport Russian gas through Poland.”

On Armenia's recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan

“Speaking of Armenia, there are complicated processes related to Karabakh. It was not us who refused [support], but Armenia’s decision to recognize Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. It's a statement of fact; there are pros and cons, but that's what happened.”

In May 2023, Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow and agreed on mutual recognition of territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, which implied Armenia's acceptance of Nagorno-Karabakh's appurtenance to Azerbaijan. This agreement was the result of the Lachin corridor – the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia – having been blocked for five months by people calling themselves environmental activists under the pretext of alleged illegal mining in Karabakh. Under the 2020 agreement that was in force at the time, Russian peacekeepers were to control the corridor, with Azerbaijan guaranteeing the safety of traffic. But the peacekeepers did not even attempt to restore traffic, pushing Nagorno-Karabakh to the verge of a humanitarian disaster. Therefore, Russia is complicit in pressuring Armenia to accept Karabakh's status as part of Azerbaijan.

On history textbooks

When asked what necessitated a new textbook of modern history, Putin said:

“It's clear why a new textbook was due. We had over 60 versions of them; 65, I think. ... Many of the textbooks were all over the map, emphasizing the importance of the Second Front, for instance, but saying almost nothing about the difference made by the Battle of Stalingrad. How is that acceptable?”

Russian school teachers can use only the textbooks included in the Federal List of Textbooks compiled by the Ministry of Education. The infamous textbook co-authored by former minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky and MGIMO rector Anatoly Torkunov is a Russian history textbook for 11th grade. The Federal List features only 13 high-school history textbooks; incidentally, six of them were edited by the authors of the new textbook: either Medinsky or Torkunov. The new textbook has not yet been added to the list on the Ministry's website.

This is not the first time Putin mentions a textbook ignoring the Battle of Stalingrad; in his address to the Federal Assembly in April 2021, he said:

“You know, even today, as I open some school textbooks, I'm surprised to see what’s inside – it’s as though we lived in a different country. Who writes and who approves such teaching aids? It boggles the mind! You can find anything there, including the Second Front, but nothing at all about the Battle of Stalingrad – can you imagine? Incredible! I don't even want to comment on that.”

The Insider then found out that no such textbook existed in Russia and that Putin's statement may have been influenced by memories of foreign textbooks, which had “outraged” Russian propagandists several years earlier, or a 1994 Russian textbook whose author, Igor Dolutsky, suggested that high school students explore the topic of the Battle of Kursk (not Stalingrad) on their own under the teacher’s guidance and listed the aspects that deserved particular attention. However, the Ministry removed his textbook from the list back in 2003.

On Aurus, Russia's domestically manufactured car

“The assembly of Aurus cars has been launched in the UAE. Our friends in the Emirates appreciate this car, and so do other manufacturers. The Aurus lineup is extensive and will eventually include limousines, sedans, SUVs, and a bus. We need to ensure their mass production, and then prices for them will immediately drop, but this will take time.”

In November, Russia indeed announced the start of production of Aurus Senat limousines in the UAE. The viability of this project remains to be seen. However, this car, which was first introduced in 2021, isn't being manufactured in Russia proper. In September 2023, automotive expert Sergei Aslanyan explained in Novaya Gazeta Europe:

“The Aurus is not yet in production. It is in fact a German car, and there have been some ‘unexpected’ difficulties with sourcing parts from Germany. The platform is the Volkswagen Phaeton. The engine casting was done in Germany. However, the gearbox is a Russian invention by Kate LLC, a company owned by Ekaterina Ignatova, the wife of Rostec head Sergei Chemezov. ... But it is also cast in Germany. And the Germans have been uncooperative lately for some reason.”

So the serial production, which was announced in Tatarstan back in 2021, requires not only time but also (and more importantly) components, which the German manufacturers, who left the Russian market, aren’t in a rush to supply.

Things aren't clear with manufacturing in the UAE either. In his YouTube show Mashiny, Aslanian remarked:

“The Aurus plant in the UAE is so secret that no one knows anything about it at all, especially in the Emirates. Not one emir, not one resident of the country. Its location, production technology, and the amount of cars produced are unknown. Deputy Prime Minister Manturov announced its launch a month ago, on November 12, but no one in the Emirates has ever seen the facility. The local press didn't say a word. Not a single emir has located the plant in his restricted territory or visited it, and we're yet to see a single picture of the automotive giant. One can only imagine how the Emirs must feel: they've been on par with the automotive advances of America and Germany for a month now, producing top-of-the-line cars at the main Arab limousine factory – and still haven't blabbed to anyone in the world. On the whole Earth, only Deputy Prime Minister Manturov knows about the plant.”

He and now Putin, apparently.

On Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign

Addressing the perils of banning abortion, Putin said:

“I cannot but recall another prohibition – the anti-alcohol campaign. We all remember its outcome: it led to the use of substitutes, growth in moonshine production, and increased casualties from poisoning. In handling the issue at hand, we also need to tread very carefully.”

As demographer Alexei Raksha points out, despite all the costs and excesses, the outcome of the Soviet anti-alcohol campaign of the late 1980s was generally positive:

“Putin was misinformed about Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign. The death rate did not increase but decreased by 12.5%. Life expectancy surged almost instantly by 2.5 years, and by 3.5 years for men. Nine months into the campaign, the birth rate showed an 8% increase due to second and subsequent children. One million fewer people died in five years than projected.”

As for pregnancy termination, Russia has no federal ban on abortion, but private clinics in more than 10 regions have collectively stopped offering it (the decision was presented as voluntary), and the State Duma is to consider a bill to ban abortions in all private clinics

On labor migrants in Russia

“By various estimates, we have over 10 million migrant workers. Our current unemployment rate is 2.9%. It's almost non-existent, but the labor demand is there. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can solve economic problems to the detriment of Russia's indigenous population. And we are primarily interested in skilled labor, of course.”

In reality, according to the aforementioned Alexei Raksha, only about 6 million foreign citizens are living in Russia, including about 4 million labor migrants.

Last May, Viktor Lyashok, a senior researcher at the Institute of Social Analysis and Forecasting of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, cited an even lower figure: according to him, Russia has less than 3 million labor migrants.

Yet another pseudo-Bismarck

“It may be out of place to quote Bismarck, but still, he once served and lived in Russia, though he eventually became a prominent German figure. He once said that wars are not won by generals but by schoolteachers and priests.”

For some reason, Russia is very fond of misquoting the first chancellor of the German Empire. The quote about generals, teachers, and priests falsely attributed to Bismarck appears in a variety of Russian-language sources.

In January 2022, fact-checkers from the online publication Provereno found its true author – Oscar Peschel, a geography professor from Leipzig. In 1866, he wrote in an article entitled Die Lehren die jüngsten Kriegsgeschichte (“The Lessons of Recent War History”):

“We have just said that public education itself decides the outcome of wars. Now we want to show that when the Prussians defeated the Austrians, it was a victory of Prussian teachers over Austrian teachers.”

The phrase referred to a particular event, the Battle of Königgrätz in 1866, in which Bismarck happened to be one of the Prussian commanders. According to Peschel, the Prussian school system, which was among the most advanced in the world, contributed to the high fighting capacity of its army. He did not mention priests; they appeared in his phrase in the course of further distortions.

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