Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian and expert on authoritarianism and tyranny, told CNN's Jim Acosta that Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech last week was the perfect example of a desperate leader attempting to come up with something so that his country isn't furious over the deaths of so many soldiers.
While the U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed 7,000 Russian soldiers have died, Putin is refusing to acknowledge any real numbers.
"The truth is breaking through. more than 14,000 people have been detained in 151 cities for staging anti-war protests in Russia," reported Acosta. "That's according to the independent human rights protest monitoring group."
Snyder explained that the recent Putin rally with crowds packed into a stadium to wave Russian flags for him was nothing more than his desperate attempt at a "fascist-style rally."
"I couldn't help but notice, though, there was a noticeable lack of enthusiasm, at least on the part of a lot of people who were there and also couldn't help but notice Mr. Putin seemed a little bit lost in his message," Snyder said. "He wasn't able to come before the people and say, 'We've secured this quick victory, and Ukraine has fallen, and the Russia world extended where it needs to extend. Which is what he wanted to be saying, and thought would be happening. Also, he wasn't able to tell people what it all meant. What the war meant and when it might come to an end. Instead gave a strange message it was about how it was good that Russian soldiers were dying because it meant there was greater unity than ever before. Basically, it's all he had to offer. It's hard to imagine that was terribly convincing."
Acosta brought up the message from Putin that he's attacking Nazis, something that is odd given the president of Ukraine is Jewish and lost three family members in the Holocaust.
"I guess like so many things, denazification begins at home," said Snyder. "With Mr. Putin, we're talking about a leader who has done away with the entire opposition and created a one-party state and now has started a war on the basis of his belief that some cleansing act of violence will restore racial unity. I mean, that's where you start with denazification in the story. Nevertheless, when we hear Mr. Putin using that word, we should realize he has a purpose using that word. The purpose, aside from confusing us, which has largely failed, is to define a mission that goes deep into Ukrainian society. Because since, as you say, there aren't Nazis in the Ukrainian government, Mr. Putin basically means anybody who's a Ukrainian, anybody resisting, he has the right to call a Nazi. So, as long as Ukrainians are resisting he can say I'm doing my denazification campaign. It's an open license for him to continue the war until everybody submits. It's horrid and grotesque but that's the part we have to take seriously."
See the full conversation below:
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