Russian hawks fume after Biden beats Putin to a triumphant welcome in Kyiv


As the war in Ukraine marks its one-year anniversary this week, Joe Biden’s symbolic visit to the country has Russian hawks thumping mad. 

For them, it was supposed to be a conquering Vladimir Putin strolling triumphantly through the streets of the capital first, not the U.S. President—and critics are not biting their tongue over their deep displeasure.

“Biden in [Kyiv]. Demonstrative humiliation of Russia,” journalist and TV personality Sergey Mardan wrote on Telegram, Russians’ preferred social media app created by two St. Petersburg natives.

Monday’s symbolism of Biden walking side-by-side with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in the sunshine of the Kyiv morning contrasts starkly with familiar images of an isolated Putin holed away within the safe confines of the Kremlin, where he generally receives his briefings from top brass.

Dmitri Medvedev, deputy chair of the Russian Security Council, attempted to defuse popular anger by claiming Biden only came after receiving a security guarantee in advance.

“He promised many weapons and swore allegiance to the neo-Nazi regime to the grave,” the Putin ally posted to Telegram on Monday

Biden’s visit has been viewed as an important morale boost to troops weary from almost 365 days of near continuous combat.

For months, Ukrainian forces have been waging a war of attrition to defend the strategically important eastern city of Bakhmut (Artyomovsk in Russian). Tensions remain high amid speculation Putin’s freshly mobilized troops will soon mount a spring offensive in the hopes that dragging out the war will eventually exhaust western resolve. 

Biden’s unannounced trip to Kyiv sought to undermine that strategy, however. 

“To me it was a true miracle,” said Oleksandr Merezhko, a senior member of Ukraine’s parliament, speaking to U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 on Monday. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw from a distance President Biden. To us it’s a huge boost to our morale.”

Russian narcissism has turned this nation into victims who see humiliation everywhere. Russian journalist Sergey Mardan wrote on his Telegram channel: “Biden in [Kyiv]. Demonstrative humiliation of Russia … I guess there are lunch breaks in a holy war.”

— Iuliia Mendel (@IuliiaMendel) February 20, 2023

He is the first sitting U.S. president to visit an active warzone where American troops are not stationed, a historic and unprecedented gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, according to the President’s communications director. 

“This was a risk that Joe Biden wanted to take,” said Kate Bedingfield. “He wanted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Zelensky and remind the world, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the invasion that Kyiv still stands and the United States will not be deterred.”

The visit enraged Russian militant Igor Girkin, who growled the elderly U.S. President could presumably even visit the front lines without fear if he was so inclined.

“Wouldn’t be surprised if the grandfather […] is brought to Bakhmut as well—AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO HIM,” he posted to Telegram.

Frustration mounts over a potential stalemate that benefits no one

Friday marks one year since Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what his government has called a “special military operation.” 

Within days of deploying his troops, however, it soon became clear that the much hoped-for blitzkrieg victory would turn into a grueling slog that has reduced much of eastern Ukraine to rubble and turned Russia into an international pariah.

In a state of the nation address on Tuesday, Putin attempted to pitch his conflict as a fight for the very survival of the Russian people. He claimed western allies were trying to “tear away” from Russia its historical lands that are now called Ukraine.

Russian hawk Girkin wasn’t impressed by Putin’s speech, which lacked the militant tone he was hoping to hear.

“Not a word about how we will respond to aggression and sanctions. We will punish traitors only morally,” he remarked acerbically on Tuesday. “Blah blah blah, there’s no point in listening.” 

The director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Russia and Eurasia program, Eugene Rumer, meanwhile held out little hope that the conflict will be resolved in 2023. He believes the likeliest possibility could end up being a de facto lasting stalemate between a Ukraine unwilling to seek peace with an aggressor that cannot be trusted and Putin, who has no choice but to keep replacing dead soldiers with fresh recruits.

“This war was not existential for him when he began it, but it is now. He has staked his entire presidency on it and must win,” he wrote on Friday. “That leaves the United States and its allies without any good options as the war enters its second year.”

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