Vladimir Putin’s eerie foreshadowing of Ukraine conflict in throwback interview

Jeremy Vine guest on consequences of Putin assassination

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The Russian President has again insisted that Russian forces are not bombing Ukrainian cities, despite latest warnings that up to 100 people could be buried in rubble after an apartment block near Kyiv was targeted. Speaking on a call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz this evening, Putin dismissed all reports of Russian forces targeting civilians.His claims came as Ukraine’s emergency services feared around 100 people might be buried after a rocket strike caused an apartment block in Boradyanka to collapse in two, with rescue workers currently unable to reach them. A cluster bomb killed a further 49 people in the Chernihiv, while the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupo is being “simply destroyed” by Russian artillery, according to local reports.

The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into war crimes on Wednesday night, but Russia does not recognise the authority of the court, meaning there is very little chance Putin himself will face trial.

Putin has given small glimpses into the making of the man who has now left the world holding its breath over his next move.

He was born in October 1952 in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, a city that had been under fierce attack for more than 900 days in World War 2, and taught harsh lessons to many of the residents.

Putin gave a chilling foreshadow of the current conflict in a 2015 interview, saying: “50 years ago the Leningrad street taught me a rule: if a fight is inevitable, you have to throw the first punch.”

Until last Sunday, Putin was the holder of a taekwondo black belt — but had it revoked by World Taekwondo following the invasion of Ukraine.

He grew up practising both judo and sambo (a Russian martial art), winning competitions in both sports in his home city.

He likes to portray a macho personality, with a photo of him riding a horse topless in Siberia’s Tuva region in 2009 now one of the most infamous images of the Russian President.

Putin never shies away from conflict, and first waged war on rats which infested the corridors of his childhood home in a neglected Soviet apartment block.

First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait gives an intimate look into Putin’s past and his rise to power.

He wrote: “There were hordes of rats in the front entryway. My friends and I used to chase them around with sticks.

“Once I spotted a huge rat and pursued it down the hall until I drove it into a corner. It had nowhere to run.

“Suddenly it lashed around and threw itself at me.

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“I was surprised and frightened. Now the rat was chasing me.”

Taking great pride in his achievements, he continued: “Luckily, I was a little faster and I managed to slam the door shut in its nose.

“There, on that stair landing, I got a quick and lasting lesson in the meaning of the word cornered.”

It was another eerie foreshadow of the Ukraine conflict, as the Ukrainians continue to put up a tenacious fight despite being cornered by the world’s fifth-largest army.

Putin himself is now cornered into a situation in which his every move is the subject of intense scrutiny — backing down would undoubtedly be considered an enormous humiliation both at home and abroad.

Most concerning of all is that Putin can continue to escalate this war, even though Kyiv is still standing.

He placed nuclear deterrent forces on high alert last weekend, and a 40-mile long convoy of military support is slowly grinding its way towards Kyiv.

He has asked neighbouring countries to normalise relations with Moscow, saying: “There are no bad intentions towards our neighbours.”

However, NATO’s secretary-general Jen Stoltenberg warned the worst is yet to come as fighting continues in key Ukrainian cities.

He told reporters in Brussels: “The days to come are likely to be worse.

“With more death, more suffering, and more destruction as the Russian armed forces bring in heavier weaponry and continue their attacks across the country.”

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