Russia has not yet launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but pundits on Kremlin-funded state television stress that the delay is only temporary. They openly laugh at the tension and turmoil caused by Vladimir Putin’s military build-up near the Ukrainian border. State media host Vladimir Soloviev kicked off his Wednesday’s broadcast of Soloviev Live by theatrically yelling, “Good morning Kyiv and Lviv!” apparently attempting to imitate the late Robin Williams in the famed war comedy “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
A day earlier, Olga Skabeeva, host of the state TV show 60 Minutes, theatrically exclaimed, “The war with Ukraine has been temporarily postponed.” She opened Wednesday’s live broadcast by mockingly announcing, “This is a sad celebration for us, the day of non-invasion of Ukraine."
Appearing on the state TV show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, political scientist and Professor of Communications Dmitry Evstafiev boasted: “We won this round.” The host, Vladimir Soloviev, corrected him: “This was merely our debut, the early stages of our debut.” Evstafiev continued: “We won this debut, it’s evident from the way they are taking a step back.” The host continued his thought: “They [the West] suddenly started to talk to us. They haven’t spoken to us in years. More than that, serious divisions manifested within the European Union. Colossal divisions within NATO.”
State media pundits gleefully discussed the statement by Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó, who asserted that his country will not accept further NATO troops on its soil and criticized sanctions against Russia. They were also pleased with German chancellor Olaf Scholz, who played down the likelihood of Ukraine joining NATO in the foreseeable future during Monday’s press conference in Kyiv. Scholz’s refusal to discuss Germany’s intent with respect to Nord Stream 2, in the event of Russia’s open invasion of Ukraine, also brought glee to Moscow’s talking heads. “He publicly buried Ukraine,” Soloviev concluded.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has dubbed recent Western intelligence leaks about Russia’s potential invasion of Ukraine as “info-terrorism.” Kremlin media, on the other hand, is continuing to push their pretext-building rhetoric, with Putin himself promoting baseless claims of alleged “genocide” of Russians in Ukraine’s Donbas region as state TV hosts air segments packed with gory images of unknown origin.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the State Duma’s request to recognize the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR, LPR) as “a very clear sign indicating the mood of lawmakers and the nation’s prevailing public opinion," but admitted that such a decision would be in contravention with Minsk accords. Nonetheless, having handed out more than 870,000 Russian passports to residents of DPR and LPR, Moscow is not backing down.
Despite Moscow’s announcement that having completed exercises, some of its troops are now returning to their bases, information released by Russia’s Defense Ministry clarified that Russian units being withdrawn from Crimea are merely going back to their bases located near the Ukrainian border.
State media outlet Izvestia reported that the 3rd and 150th motor rifle divisions are based in Boguchar and Valuyki, located in the immediate vicinity of the border with Ukraine. Only the 42nd division is returning back to Chechnya, which is considerably farther away. NATO's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday that Russia appeared to be increasing—not reducing—its troop presence along Ukraine's border: "So far we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground. On the contrary, it appears that Russia continues their military buildup."
“The world without Russia would be boring,” pontificated Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio and a prominent fixture on Russian state TV news talk shows on his Tuesday’s appearance on The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev. He opined that Putin was clearly bluffing and Russia isn’t militarily ready for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but the strategy of intimidation through Moscow’s show of force is working wonders. He surmised: “It’s exhausting them, it’s exhausting the West and draining its energy.”
Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state media outlet RT, was pleased with the Kremlin’s strategy of ratcheting up tensions. Referring to Putin as “the Boss,” she tweeted: “The boss never works according to someone else's schedule. And he doesn't do what he is told to do... We demonstrated everything we wanted to.” Simonyan added that the devastating impact of Putin’s war games on Ukraine’s economy brought her pleasure. Ever the hawkish propagandist and a fervent proponent of an escalation, RT’s head added an ominous threat: “Our Defense Ministry’s tanks can travel right back, just as fast as they left.”