Blinken addresses Russian public: "We know you want no part of this war"
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that "it's becoming clearer by the day" that the Russian people and even members of the Russian military oppose Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, but that they will now "suffer the consequences of their leader's choices."
Why it matters: Unprecedented sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its Western allies are choking off the Russian economy, with the worst effects yet to be seen. Russian authorities have cracked down on anti-war protests and silenced the last remaining independent media outlets, as the Kremlin seeks to paint a domestic narrative divorced from reality.
What they're saying: "My message to the people of Russia — if they are even able to hear it, as the Kremlin cracks down even harder on media outlets reporting the truth — my message is that we know you want no part of this war," Blinken said at a press conference.
- "The economic costs that we've been forced to impose on Russia are not aimed at you. They're aimed at compelling your government to stop its actions, to stop its aggression."
- "And just as millions of us around the world stand together against Moscow's aggression, we also stand together with you as you demand that your leaders end this war."
The big picture: One week into Putin's unprovoked assault on Ukraine, there are growing indications that Russian troops are indiscriminately targeting civilian infrastructure as hopes for a swift victory falter in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.
- Kharkiv, a city on the Russian border whose population is overwhelmingly Russian-speaking, has endured the most brutal civilian shelling of the entire war over the past several days.
- "President Putin, among the many false justifications he's given for invading Ukraine, has cited the need to protect against an imaginary threat to Russian ethnic and Russian-speaking peoples," Blinken said.
- "How is assaulting and bombing the population of Kharkiv — again, one of the largest Russian-speaking cities in Europe — advancing that purported goal?
What to watch: Blinken will travel to Belgium, Poland, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from March 3 to 8, for meetings with NATO allies and neighbors of Ukraine that have welcomed thousands of refugees fleeing the war.