False alarm: Putin’s ’emergency speech’ abruptly cancelled?
posted at 1:21 pm on August 7, 2014 by Noah Rothman
As Russian forces are amassing along the Ukrainian border, strict anti-Western counter-sanctions are being imposed by Moscow, and NATO is warning that an invasion of Ukraine may be imminent, Russian President Vladimir Putin picked a particularly disturbing time to schedule an “emergency speech.”
That is, however, exactly what he did, according to some rather specific reports. Via the Eurasia analysts at Interpreter Magazine, a report circulated by local Russian officials on Thursday indicated that Putin planned to make an “emergency speech” about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
“Today an emergency speech by President Vladimir Putin is expected at 20:30 on Rossiya,” one local Russian official tweeted. “Notices have been sent to all affiliates of [the television and radio company] VGTRK.”
That tweet was later deleted, but Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Svoboda Radio later confirmed that a speech by Putin was expected this evening.
“Sources believe that the president’s speech will be related to a decree on retaliatory measures regarding the West, under which the import of products from countries that have applied sanctions regarding Russia will be restricted; there is not yet any specific information about the address from the head of state,” Svoboda reported.
Kremlin officials later denied that Putin planned to address the nation on Thursday evening.
“Putin’s speech may be cancelled. It may be delayed. It may happen just as the original story suggests,” Interpreter Magazine’s analysis read. “We find it hard to believe that it was never planned, since the information released was so specific. This all means that there may be a speech in the works, and perhaps the speech is supposed to come as a surprise?”
In response to the imposition of new sectorial sanctions on Russia in July, the Russian Federation imposed a number of restrictions on the import of a variety of foods from the European Union, Norway, Australia, Canada, and the United States for at least one year.
It is possible that Putin might have planned to address these sanctions, which analysts believe will not be welcomed by most of the Russian urban populace. Other reports have indicated that it would not have been in Putin’s best interests to call a national address to prepare the nation for sanctions that will primarily impact Russians living in large cities.
“At the same time, the import bans will have a limited impact on the bulk of Russia’s population, which relies mainly on domestic foods and imports from other former Soviet countries,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Wealthier urbanites, who depend more on Western imports, aren’t a central part of Mr. Putin’s political base.”
That would indicate that Putin’s intention to make an “emergency address” to the nation would have had far more ominous implications for global stability.