Putin’s dream of Russian victory slips away in Ukraine

“The truth is on our side and truth is strength!” Vladimir Putin boomed into a microphone on Red Square last week, after a grand ceremony at which he proclaimed four large chunks of Ukrainian territory to be part of Russia.

“Victory will be ours!”

But in the real world, things look very different.

Even as Russia’s president signed his illegal annexation treaties in the Kremlin, Ukrainian forces were advancing inside the areas he had just seized.

Hundreds of thousands of men have been fleeing Russia rather than be drafted to fight in an expanding war.

And things are going so badly on the battlefield that Mr Putin and his loyalists are now reframing what they once claimed was the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine and the protection of Russian speakers as an existential fight against the entire “collective” West.

That is the truth and none of it is on Russia’s side.

“He’s in a blind zone. It seems he’s not really seeing what’s happening,” the editor of Riddle Russia, Anton Barbashin, argues of Russia’s president.

Like many, the political analyst believes that Mr Putin was caught completely off-guard by strong Western support for Kyiv, as well as Ukraine’s own fierce resistance to occupation.

As he turns 70 today, after more than 20 years in power, it seems Russia’s leader has become a victim of his own system. His autocratic style is impeding his access to sound intelligence.

GALEOTTI: Seven key moments that made Putin

“You can’t question his ideas,” explains Tatyana Stanovaya, the head of R.Politik analysis firm.

“Everyone who works with Mr Putin knows his picture of the world and of Ukraine, they know his expectations. They can’t deliver him information that contradicts his vision. That’s just how it works.”

The president’s latest address, delivered beneath the gilded Kremlin chandeliers, re-stated his vision of a new world order.

The ongoing collapse of Western hegemony is irreversible: things will never be the same. The battlefield to which destiny and history have called us is a battlefield for our people

It involves a mighty Russia, a cowed Western world that has been forced to learn respect and Kyiv subjugated once again to Moscow.

To attain that, Ukraine is Mr Putin’s chosen battlefield.

Even as his ambitions appear most illusory, he looks in no mood to scale back.

“A lot of major calculations the Kremlin was working with did not pan out and it doesn’t seem like Putin has a Plan B, other than keeping on pushing people to the front line and hoping that sheer numbers will prevent Ukraine from advancing further,” Anton Barbashin believes.