58-year-old Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev became Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council in 2020, having previously served as president from 2008 to 2012 and as prime minister from 2012 to 2020. When he took office at the age of 42, he was the youngest post-Soviet Russian president and hopes were high that there would be some real change in the country’s political landscape.
His political rise (and fall)
His pronouncements reinforced the view that here was a liberal head of state with whom the West could do business. He spoke of increasing freedom for citizens and the media, instituting long-lasting modernization of the Russian economy, rooting out corruption and expanding the technology base.
He said at a press conference in 2009:
“Instead of the primitive raw material economy, we will create a smart economy generating unique knowledge, new useful things and technologies. Instead of the archaic society, in which the leaders think and make decisions for everyone, we will become a country of intelligent, free and responsible people.”
However, it soon became obvious that Putin was the man in charge and that Medvedev was just keeping the president’s seat warm. Putin returned to the presidency in 2012 and has held his grip on it ever since. Although Medvedev stepped sideways to become prime minister, where he remained until 2020, he was forever in the shadow of his more senior partner.
Medvedev was asked about his achievements as president just before the handover in May 2012 by the Eurodialogue political journal, and he was candid in describing his legacy as small victories against 1,000 years of history.
The promise of personal and press freedom
“Freedom is a unique concept that everyone interprets differently. Let's ask people [who took part in opposition demonstrations] in the streets if they feel freedom.”
On his (ultimately futile) stand against corruption:
“It would be a massive exaggeration to say that nothing is being done. But if we are talking of results, then they are, of course, modest.”
Most dismissed him as a failure as president with most of the promises he made never being fulfilled but the optimists thought that real change was on the way. One political expert, Pyotr Romanov, said: “The ice began to melt, and Putin won’t be able to refreeze it. Medvedev set some landmarks, and it’s up to society to follow them.”
As we now know, confidence was misplaced as most of Medvedev’s progressive initiatives were swept away by Putin in the years that followed. In his 8 years as prime minister, the post became increasingly “ceremonial” and when he spoke, he was invariably accused of merely parroting the words of his boss.
In the interim
An article in the Daily Telegraph in December 2012 told how Medvedev let slip his guard when after a television interview he kept talking, not realizing the cameras were still on.
Asked about Christmas: “I believe in Father Frost. But not too deeply. But anyway, you know, I’m not one of those people who are able to tell the kids that Father Frost does not exist.”
He then went on to make what was interpreted as a thinly veiled criticism of Putin who had been late for several meetings: “Colleagues, somebody should be extremely punctual, while somebody else is exhausting all the limits for being late.”
Another subject that was current at the time was UFOs. Asked for his views on the truth about aliens he said, tongue in cheek: “Along with the briefcase with nuclear codes, the president of the country is given a special ‘top secret’ folder ... [which] contains information about aliens who visited our planet.”
He then went on to say: “Along with this, you are given a report of the absolutely secret special service that exercises control over aliens on the territory of our country... I will not tell you how many of them are among us because it may cause panic.”
His comments were repeated on social media resulting in him suffering widespread mockery.
In an October 2014 interview with CNBC, which was largely concerned with economic issues, Medvedev was asked about the situation in Ukraine, following the previous February’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the fighting in the Donbas. In hindsight, his answers foreshadowed the 2022 full-scale invasion.
“…we are deeply concerned about the events in Ukraine. We would like the civil war unleashed by the coup earlier this year to end and Ukraine to return to calm and stability.”
He then went on to say:
“Our current goal is to help restore peace in Ukraine. We can do so only through negotiations... the central [Ukrainian] government must listen to eastern Ukraine. Whether or not they like these people… [the] decisions that Russia takes, including decisions on our armed forces, are the responsibility of our government… the situation in Ukraine… is, of course, our major concern.”
Post Russia’s full-scale invasion
In a March 21, 2022, Telegram post, less than a month after the full-scale invasion Medvedev’s earlier conciliatory tone had all but gone. He responded to the visit to Kyiv by the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia in the previous week with language as far from “diplomatic” as it could be:
“Polish propaganda is the most vicious, vulgar and shrill critic of Russia … [while] there are no anti-Polish sentiments in Russia and never have been.”
“…the interests of the citizens of Poland have been sacrificed to the Russophobia of these mediocre politicians and their puppeteers from across the ocean… it is much more important for the vassal Polish elites to swear allegiance to their overlord - America than to help their own citizens.”
“…sooner or later, they will understand that hatred of Russia does not strengthen their society, it does not contribute to well-being and tranquility.”
His ire wasn’t just restricted to the Poles:
“…they [the three PMs] traveled to Kyiv on a specially guarded train. Almost like Ilyich in an armored carriage with German money.”
A month later, as the first signs began to appear that the so-called “special military operation” wasn’t going as planned the Russian news site RealNoevremya quoted other statements made by Medvedev in an April 5 Telegram post. In it his language, aimed at the Kyiv government, became ever more intemperate:
“Ukraine that has mentally transformed into the Third Reich will have the same fate. The mad monsters consisting of all nationalist battalions and territorial defense forces are ready to kill their own civilians casually to dehumanize Russia and tarnish it as much as possible.”
He carried the Nazi analogy even further:
“In the last 30 years, passionate Ukrainians have prayed to the Third Reich. Literally. The photos in which Nazi insignia — flags, literature, posters — that are found in every military unit of Ukraine taken under our control cause disgust.”
“…[they even] put the names of traitors and Nazi henchmen into history textbooks. Ukrainianism is a fake. It never existed and doesn’t exist.”
In June the leaders of France, Germany and Italy came to Kyiv in a show of support to Ukraine. Medvedev categorized this as an empty gesture with yet more insulting language that was becoming his trademark:
“European fans of frogs, liverwurst and spaghetti love visiting Kiev. With zero use. Promised EU membership and old howitzers to Ukraine, lushed up on horilka [Ukrainian vodka] and went home by train, like 100 years ago. All is well. Yet, it won’t bring Ukraine closer to peace. The clock’s ticking.”
In August 2022 Medvedev was quoted by the Russian independent news site Meduza as saying: “… the special operation… is proceeding in accordance with the most sparing, moderate scenario … the Russian military is conducting military operations only against the Armed Forces of Ukraine. If the situation had been different, then … its [Ukraine’s] infrastructure would be destroyed, decision-making centers, authorities and so on would be destroyed. We didn't go for that option.”
In September Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that negotiations to end the war with Russia were impossible as things stood. In response Medvedev posted his response on Telegram in a refrain that was to be constantly heard as the war progressed:
“A certain Zelensky said that he will not hold a dialogue with those who issue ultimatums. This year's ultimatums are a mere warm-up before the demands [to be made] in the future. And he knows these: the total surrender of the Kyiv regime on Russia's terms.”
In a December 2022 Telegram post Medvedev made, what was interpreted as Russia’s first threat of using nuclear weapons, although Putin seemed to have dismissed the idea. He was quoted by the Euro Weekly News publication as saying:
“Pseudo-Ukrainian rabid mutts with Russian surnames, choking on their toxic saliva, declare that their enemy is located within the borders of Russia, from the West to Vladivostok. There is no cure for rabies.
“That is why we are increasing production of the most powerful means of defeat. Including those based on new principles.”
He doubled down on this on another Telegram post in March 2023, shortly after the International Criminal Court had issued an arrest warrant for Putin, in which he said:
“Has the threat of a nuclear conflict passed? No, it has not passed. It has increased. Each day when foreign weapons are delivered to Ukraine ultimately brings this same nuclear apocalypse closer.”
He went on, as quoted by Newsweek referencing an interview with TASS to say:
“… they did not believe in and did not see the extent of Russia’s determination, or the determination of its president or the supreme commander, to do what we did.”
“… an attempt to retake Crimea … it is absolutely clear that this will serve as a basis for the use of all means of protection, including those provided for by the basic doctrine of nuclear deterrence … as it poses a threat to the existence of the [Russian] state.
In May 2023, according to a number of reports in both Western and Russian independent news sites, he stepped up his attacks on Kyiv’s allies, with his favorite bête noire, Poland, to the forefront.
In deleted Twitter posts he said:
“I see no point in maintaining diplomatic relations with Poland ... there is no one but Russophobes in power, and Ukraine is full of Polish mercenaries, who must be ruthlessly exterminated.
“Our main task must be to inflict a devastating defeat on all enemies – the Ukronazis, the US, their minions in NATO, including vile Poland, and other western nits. We must finally return all our lands.”
Later in the month Politico quoted him as saying:
“This conflict is for a very long time; for decades, probably. As long as there is such a power [in Kyiv], there will be, say, three years of cease-fire, two years of conflict, and then everything will happen again.”
In June the Polish President Andrzej Duda was the focus of another rant and threats to Poland after their leader had said that now was not the time for negotiations:
“The Polish scumbag Duda suggested shooting Russians like rabid beasts. Does anyone still have hopes for talks with such bastards? In the 18th century, the brute would simply be brought to the Red Square, and pitilessly executed by quartering. But we are humanists. We’ll take our revenge in a different way.”
In July 2023 in response to a question about Finland’s accession to NATO, Medvedev was quoted by the Russian state media outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta as saying:
“It would be better to temporarily suspend diplomatic relations with Finland and similar countries (such as Poland, the Baltic states and, of course, the UK), or at least downgrade their level for a while.”
Later in the month he commented on the aborted Wagner mercenary group’s rebellion by saying:
“The authorities in Russia have convincingly proved their strength and stability, and the people of the country have demonstrated their readiness to rally around Supreme Commander Vladimir Putin to defend the Motherland.”
In August, asked by the TASS state news agency on the newly announced intention by some NATO countries to supply F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine, he dismissed the plan:
“Don’t get carried away too much with toy plane games in your sandbox, kids. Lest the next ‘good day’ for Europe may become its last day.”
Earlier this week Medvedev went on Telegram yet again in response to the news that G-7 and other countries were preparing to sign security agreements with Kyiv. In his stongest ever statementdemand the annihilation of Ukraine and all Ukrainians, because as long as it tried to be a separate nation so the war would continue:
“The presence of an independent state on historical Russian territories will now be a constant reason to resume hostilities. It's too late. Whoever is at the helm of the cancerous new entity called Ukraine, it will not add legitimacy to its rule and legal standing … no matter what security papers the West signs with the puppet Kiev regime. Neither Ukraine's association with the EU nor even this artificial country's accession to NATO will prevent it ... [even if] it may happen in ten or fifty years.”
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