WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday derisively called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to acknowledge reality and pull troops from Ukraine after he finally called the conflict a “war.”
Since Putin ordered the invasion in February, Russia has officially spoken of a “special military operation” and imposed a law that criminalises what authorities call misleading terminology.
But at a news conference on Thursday, Putin himself used the word “war” as he said that he hoped to end it as soon as possible.
“Since February 24, the United States and rest of the world knew that Putin’s ‘special military operation’ was an unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine. Finally, after 300 days, Putin called the war what it is,” a State Department spokesperson said.
“As a next step in acknowledging reality, we urge him to end this war by withdrawing his forces from Ukraine.”
The State Department said that, whatever Putin’s terminology, “Russia’s aggression against its sovereign neighbour has resulted in death, destruction and displacement.”
“The people of Ukraine no doubt find little consolation in Putin stating the obvious, nor do the tens of thousands of Russian families whose relatives have been killed fighting Putin’s war.”
Meanwhile, a St Petersburg politician has asked prosecutors to investigate Putin for using the word “war” to describe the conflict in Ukraine, accusing the Kremlin chief of breaking his own law.
Putin has for months described his invasion as a “special military operation”. He signed laws in March that prescribe steep fines and jail terms for discrediting or spreading “deliberately false information” about the armed forces, putting people at risk of prosecution if they call the war by its name.
But he departed from his usual language on Thursday when he told reporters: “Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war.”
Nikita Yuferev, an opposition councillor in the city where Putin was born, said he knew his legal challenge would go nowhere, but he had filed it to expose the “mendacity” of the system.
“It’s important for me to do this to draw attention to the contradiction and the injustice of these laws that he (Putin) adopts and signs but which he himself doesn’t observe,” he told Reuters.
“I think the more we talk about this, the more people will doubt his honesty, his infallibility, and the less support he will have.”
In his challenge, filed in an open letter, Yuferev asked the prosecutor general and interior minister to “hold (Putin) responsible under the law for spreading fake news about the actions of the Russian army”.
Yuferev said Putin critics who publicly called the war a war have suffered harsh punishments.
Opposition politician Ilya Yashin was jailed for 8-1/2 years this month for spreading “false information” about the army. In July another local councillor, Alexei Gorinov, was sentenced to seven years for criticising the invasion. — AFP/Reuters