Crisis in Ukraine: The Significance of Vladimir Putin

Joseph Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev … and now Vladimir Putin.

How important is Putin in fuelling the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea? How has his political image structured the contemporary Russia? How is he portrayed by the Russian media and what Ukrainian citizens think of him?

Russia accepted the results of the Crimean Referendum, following Crimea parliament’s controversial decision to leave Ukraine and annex itself to the Russian Federation. Subsequently joining the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov and the President of Russia on a new political journey, against the majority of political leaders around the world.

Growing up in an ‘ordinary family’ in Leningrad, currently known as Saint Petersburg, he knew from an early age he wanted to work in Intelligence Services, but later became one of the most controversial political leaders of our generations – Vladimir Putin.

The current president of Russia has been very outspoken about the situation in Ukraine from an early stage of the demonstrations in 2013. He was actively commenting and discussing the crisis, and accused the European Union of ‘promoting’ mass protests.

Isaac Webb, Kyiv Post reporter, said that an intervation from the EU should be a priority in ‘reconstructing’ and once again shaping Ukraine. “There is a desperate need for a leader who can cultivate support in the east and the west. Ukraine must be able to negotiate a deal with the EU to bail out the economy.” This is where issues start to appear. The last couple of months have been extremely difficult for the EU-Russia relations – mainly caused by the situation in Ukraine – and therefore Russia has accused the European Union of intervening without being asked.

This was not the first time when the Russian government have accused the European Union, earlier last year Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine against a EU free trade pack and confirmed that he will take “protective measures” if such document is signed. Although the relations between Russia and EU have been always extremely crucial, the conflicts have been brewing for a while.

Alleged Russian troops moving to Crimea, including Simferopol, were also highly criticised by major political leaders and as a result causing general panic about the future of Ukraine and the safety of innocent civilians.

“Putin claims there are no Russian troops in Crimea, but the Peninsula is full of them,” said Maxim Sochiskiy, an expert in post-Soviet politics. He pointed out the general believe of Moscow that people will ‘believe’ in his lies.

“The ex-President of Ukraine Yanukovich has told a lot of lies and seems to be living in his own reality, but Putin has told much more lies and obviously has much less in common with real world than Yanukovich,” Sochiskiy referred to the two press conferences organised by Yanukovich and Putin.

“Putin has ignored obvious facts or tended to transform them into something that was similar to science fiction, rather than any form of reality. It is necessary to mention that none of the Ukrainian journalists were able to ask any questions. Putin would not be able to give answers that would not harm his political image.”

Political image. Not his visual image, although it is also an important factor, the political image of Vladimir Putin is ‘crucial’ in the construction of his diplomatic power. Nothing has been able to change that. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared his actions to Adolf Hitler, which led to World War II and German Chancellor Angela Marker said that he “lost touch with reality.” The ‘majority’ of Russians would also compare Putin to a historical figure, but instead of choosing Hitler, they compare him to Joseph Stalin.

This is where the mentality and public perception differs dramatically when compared to Europe or the United States. Putin is such a significant political figure that his views are instantly in the interest of everyone. However, many Ukrainians believe his public image is mainly constructed through controlled Russian media.

“Crimea is strongly pro-Russia, because of the Russian media creating a fake reality through propaganda,” said Julia Lugovska, journalist from Kyiv with a PhD in post-Soviet politics. “Crimean citizens are being fed stereotypes.”

Maxim Sochiskiy continued, “Russian propaganda in Crimea is strong, especially now.” Putin is “unstoppable” and the “main aim of his aggression was the plan to cut off Ukraine from the Black. Without southern regions Ukraine, Crimea is no use to Putin.”

The reasons behind Putin wanting Crimea so badly is a constant debate, but Pablo Veyrat, an Estonian specialist in post-Soviet and Russian issues, believes that Crimea became a flashpoint in Putin’s politics, because of “the strategic value of the Black Sea and the easiness to cut it off mainland Ukraine.”

Vladimir Putin. Significant. Powerful. Fearless. He has a strong political image and is able to control the public, the Russian public. He will not stop without fighting for Crimea as he has proven many times before. His significance in the Crimean and Ukrainian crisis is indisputable, because of his consistency. The consistency that allowed a boy from a working-class family become the President of the Russian Federation.