What he said: “It’s not that America was going to launch a surprise strike on Russia. I didn’t say that.”
Why he’s wrong: He did say that.
Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine by alleging a threat from the U.S., stating just three days before the war began: “We also know who the main adversary for the U.S. and NATO is — it’s Russia. In NATO documents, our country is officially and directly declared the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security. And Ukraine will serve as the advanced foothold for such an attack.”
What he said: “The president of Ukraine has legislated a ban on negotiating with Russia.”
Why he’s wrong: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree banning negotiations specifically with Putin, not Russia as a country.
“With this Russian president, it is impossible. He does not know what dignity and honesty are. We are ready for dialogue with Russia, but with a different president,” Zelenskyy said.
Putin, however, perceives that he himself is the single legitimate representative of Russia. His key officials share the same feeling: “There is no Russia today if there is no Putin,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, head of the lower house of Russia’s parliament.
What he said: “Russia even agreed voluntarily and proactively to the collapse of the Soviet Union. … After all, the collapse of the Soviet Union was effectively initiated by the Russian leadership.”
Why he’s wrong: Ex-Russian President Boris Yeltsin was one of three signatories to the Belovezha Accords in December 1991, which declared the USSR’s dissolution. But the collapse of the USSR was primarily due to internal political and economic struggles, with several Soviet republics declaring independence against Moscow’s wishes.
What he said: “In the war of propaganda, it is very difficult to defeat the United States because the United States controls all the world’s media and many European media. The ultimate beneficiaries of the biggest European media are American financial institutions.”
Why he’s wrong: The biggest news media companies are privately owned and operate without direct government control, in contrast to the state-controlled media landscape in Russia. Russian state TV and the primary news agencies there are the property of the government, and the Kremlin controls other media or destroys those not willing to collaborate.
In 2023, Russian authorities threw 28 reporters behind bars, according to Reporters Without Borders. Among them were two American citizens: Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich, accused of espionage; and Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, accused of failing to register as a “foreign agent.”
What he said: “If a person gets secret information and does that in a conspiratorial manner, then this is qualified as espionage. And that is exactly what he was doing. He was receiving classified, confidential information, and he did it covertly.”
Why he’s wrong: The WSJ has vehemently denied Gershkovich’s arrest in Yekaterinburg and the charges against him. Putin accused Gershkovich of espionage without providing evidence for his claims that the FSB caught the reporter “red-handed.”
What he said: “The West is afraid of a strong China more than it fears a strong Russia, because Russia has 150 million and China has a 1.5 billion population. As Bismarck once put it, potentials are the most important.”
Why he’s right (almost): Putin’s admission that the West fears a strong China more than a strong Russia reflects a realistic assessment of geopolitical power dynamics. However, his citation of Otto von Bismarck to support his argument is questionable; POLITICO couldn’t confirm Bismarck making the statement Putin used.
Putin does, however, love using fake quotes. In December 2023, Putin cited Bismarck as saying that “wars are not won by generals but by schoolteachers and parish priests,” although Bismarck never actually said that.