With concern about the likelihood of imminent new Russian military action being reported from all over the world, including Washington, Berlin and London, Ukraine’s leader has felt it necessary to address his people on TV to calm fears and prevent panic.

“Take a deep breath, calm down” and don't panic

was the advice directed by President Volodymyr Zelensky to the Ukrainian people in a video message shown on TV in the evening of Jan. 19 in response to multiple reports of an impending new Russian invasion

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Zelensky assured people that the invasion threat level has not changed and there is no need to withdraw their cash from banks, no need to bulk buy supplies and no need to share fake news with friends and acquaintances.

“Reporting daily that war may start tomorrow” won’t stop war from happening, the president stressed as he urged the media not to help the enemy by pursuing hype.

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President Zelensky concluded his message by asking them to keep calm and cool heads, to avoid being anxious or emotional, and to be confident in themselves and in the Ukrainian Army.

Where is this information about an imminent Russian invasion coming from?

In recent weeks Russia has engaged in even more threatening behaviour by massing troops on Ukraine’s border and issuing demands to the West that have the ring of ultimata.

But it is the thinking underlying them that has made the latest sabre-rattling from the Kremlin appear even more dangerous and uncompromising.

One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s key advisers is Vladislav Surkov.

He was one of the originators and planners of the “Novorossiya” project – the scheme to seize part of eastern Ukraine in 2014 and take control of the Black Sea Area.

“The [Russian] fight for Ukraine will never cease. It may die down, it may flare up, but it will continue, inevitably,” Surkov was reported as saying by the Irish Times on June 20, 2021.

In the same article Surkov boasted “I am proud that I was part of the reconquest [of parts of Ukraine]. This was the first open geopolitical counter-attack by Russia [against the West].”  Less than one month later his leader published an essay claiming Ukraine as Russian.

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Putin himself has been repeatedly implying that Ukraine does not even have a valid right to its own state and European self-identification.

“I said that Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole. These words were not driven by some short-term considerations or prompted by the current political context. It is what I have said on numerous occasions and what I firmly believe,” reiterated Putin in a July 2021 essay titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”.

In December 2021, the Russian Federation issued demand to the U.S. and NATO for “security guarantees” that would illegally isolate Ukraine, including clauses that the latter would never become a member of NATO or a host for certain U.S. defensive equipment. Russia threatened unspecified military actions if its demands were not met.

Putin’s blackmail resulted in intense international negotiations and huge united efforts to support Ukraine by using diplomacy and deterrence costs to deter Russia and encourage it de-escalate tensions.

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One of the first top officials to express his concerns was Adam Schiff Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

I am deeply concerned by public reports indicating Russia’s military is mobilizing to the Ukrainian border,

Schiff wrote on Nov. 20. And on Jan. 14 he added: “As we continue to track Russia’s military build-up along the border with Ukraine, I am deeply concerned that Russia could engineer a “false flag” attack as a pretext for a full-fledged invasion, an act that would be consistent with past Russian behavior.”

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said at a press conference in Berlin on Jan. 20 that President Biden and Allies don't know for sure if Putin will choose a path of diplomacy and cooperation or a path of conflict and costs. The top U.S. diplomat stated that he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva on Jan. 21 to discuss this in more detail.

In the meantime, President Zelensky is asking his people to remain calm and be prepared for all contingencies, knowing that the Ukrainian army is ready defend it and Ukraine has friends abroad.

But he also has  a frank message for allies and friendly observers, which he tweeted in the afternoon of Jan. 20.

"We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power."

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This appears to have been a polite response to a gaffe seemingly made by President Joe Biden on Jan. 19 when pressed on whether sanctions will work to deter Russia from invading drew a distinction between an invasion and an incursion, suggesting that a smaller incursion would not prompt massive sanctions.

Spirited talk from the leader of a beleaguered country attempting to keep things in perspective.

 

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