Vladimir Putin’s seven ominous warning signs before Russia invaded Ukraine

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin rose to power two decades ago and has refused to shy away from his bullying tactics over the years.

Elected in 2000, the politician is the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

The former KGB foreign intelligence officer, 69, has aggressively shown his determination to reassert Russian power in the face of the US and its NATO allies.

In 2018, Putin was re-elected for six years in a controversial national vote that gave him the power to stay in office past his fourth term, which ends in 2024, The Mirror reports.

He previously described the USSR’s collapse in 1991 as “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] Century”.

Putin has made his resentment of NATO’s expansion near Russian borders public through scaling up military and reigniting Western suspicion of his intentions for the first time since the Cold War.

In the past 20 years, he has repeatedly used bullying tactics and plans to exert his power over the perceived enemy of the West.

From the most recent invasion of Ukraine to attempted assassinations of critics, we’ve found at least seven warning signs to the world from Putin before Russia invaded last week.

Second Chechen war – 1999- 2000

The armed conflict in Chechnya was fought between 1999 and 2000
The armed conflict in Chechnya was fought between 1999 and 2000

In September 1999 a series of explosions in Buynaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk killed more than 300 and injured 800 people.

Putin blamed the bombings on Chechen rebels said: “We will pursue them everywhere… We’ll catch them in the toilet. We’ll wipe them out in the outhouse.”

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These bombings were the justification to start the Second Chechen War and helped Putin rise in popularity.

The armed conflict was fought between 1999 and 2000, but the far-reaching impacts have been felt for years since.

Russia established direct control over Chechnya in May 2000, not long after Putin rose to power, and exerted political control for several years.

By the mid-2000s, Putin transferred some power to pro-Russian Chechen forces.

International criticism for this war was rife as it was speculated the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor agency to the KGB, was likely behind the bombings that gave Putin his green light to start the war.

Death of Alexander Litvinenko – 2006

Alexander Litvinenko was assassinated by Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun in 2006
Alexander Litvinenko was assassinated by Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun in 2006

Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the FSB and KGB.

He fled to the UK after criticizing what he said was corruption within the Russian government and remained a vocal critic of Putin.

In 2006, Litvinenko was assassinated by Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun for poisoning from polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome.

Global speculation and investigations by British authorities led to deterioration between Britain and Russia’s relationship.

No charges were ever made, but a Scotland Yard representative testified during a public hearing nearly 10 years later saying that “the evidence suggests that the only credible explanation is in one way or another the Russian state is involved in Litvinenko’s murder”.

Annexation of Crimea – 2014

Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, which sparked international condemnation.

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The Russian leader escalated military presence on the peninsula as it was branded a violation of international law.

The Russian government has rejected calling it an “annexation” as Putin maintains he is protecting the self-determination of its people.

Russian intervention in the Syrian war – 2015

Putin got involved in the Syrian civil war when he launched airstrikes in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

He claimed the airstrikes were to help destroy terrorist organization ISIS, but the intervention also turned the civil war in Assad’s favour.

By December 2017, Russian troops were deployed to Syria.

Putin’s military campaign in Syria drew significant criticism from the West as NGOs said his airstrikes killed more civilians and children than the terrorists he claimed to be targeting.

Russia meddles in US elections – 2016

Putin was accused of meddling in the 2016 US election which saw former-business man Donald Trump get elected as president
Putin was accused of meddling in the 2016 US election which saw former-business man Donald Trump get elected as president

It was long-suspected that Putin was involved in interfering in the 2016 US election.

In 2018, a Russian internet agency and more than a dozen Russians are charged with interfering in the campaign from 2014 through 2016.

It was seen as a multi-prong effort to support Donald Trump and smear his rival, Hillary Clinton.

Putin has continuously denied the claims despite a report in April 2019 from the investigation carried out by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller showing “evidence of numerous links” between officials working on Trump’s presidential campaign and individuals “having or claiming ties to the Russian government.”

salisbury poisonings – 2018

Former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, England, in March 2018, before they were hospitalized after falling victim to a Novichok attack.

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Former Prime Minister Theresa May said it was likely the Russian government were behind the attack.

The US, EU, UK and Canada collectively expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats and Putin retaliated by expelling Western diplomats.

Both Sergei and Yulia spent several weeks in hospital in critical condition, before being discharged.

A few months later, two British nationals were poisoned with the same nerve agent after a Charlie Rowley found a perfume bottle and gave it to Dawn Sturgess, who sprayed it on her wrist.

Dawn sadly died and Charlie survived – as police said it wasn’t a targeted attack but a result of how the nerve agent was disposed of.

British authorities later identified two Russian nationals, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, as suspected of the Skripals’ poisoning.

It was alleged they were active officers in Russian military intelligence.

Ruslan Boshirov was later identified as being the highly decorated GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Petrov was Alexander Mishkin, also of the GRU.

Imprisonment of Alexei Navalny – 2021

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence for an embezzlement charge.

He returned to Russia in 2021 after surviving a poisoning attempt in 2020.

During a flight from Tomsk to Moscow in 2020, Navalny fell ill and the plane made an emergency landing.

He currently faces a further 15 years in jail as a new trial gets underway for a separate embezzlement charge. Navalny strongly denies the allegations.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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