Fact Check By: Craig Jones, Newswise
Russia, throughout all of its history, has never attacked anyone.Claim Publisher and Date: Dmitry Peskov, Russian Presidential spokesperson on 2022-02-20
2-24-2022 Update: Just a day after this was posted, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The fact check is still relevant.
As the world watches Russian military build-up on the border of Russia and Ukraine, waiting anxiously to see if the conflict over Ukraine escalates into war, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that "Russia, throughout all of its history, has never attacked anyone." He made this claim on February 20th on Russian state television, a day before Russia formally recognized the independence of two separatist territories in Eastern Ukraine. The video can be seen here and has been covered in the Russian news service TASS. We rate this claim as false. Russia has a history of provoking war. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia has attacked or at least engaged in military aggression against its neighbors. The most recent targets of their military might have been Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.
In 2014, Russian military took over Crimea from Ukraine, and later formally annexed the region. The annexation was never accepted by most other nations.
As reported by John Simpson on BBC News in March, 2014.
For much of February, thousands of extra soldiers were quietly sent in to the bases which Russia was permitted by treaty to own in Crimea. Civilian "volunteers" moved in too. The plan was carried out secretly and with complete success. The first obvious sign that Crimea was being taken over was on Friday 28 February, when checkpoints were established at Armyansk and Chongar - the two main road crossings from mainland Ukraine to the Crimean peninsula.
An entry for "The crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine" in Encyclopædia Britannica reads...
As pro-Russian protesters became increasingly assertive in Crimea, groups of armed men whose uniforms lacked any clear identifying marks surrounded the airports in Simferopol and Sevastopol. Masked gunmen occupied the Crimean parliament building and raised a Russian flag, as pro-Russian lawmakers dismissed the sitting government and installed Sergey Aksyonov, the leader of the Russian Unity Party, as Crimea’s prime minister.
Beginning in the early 1990s, just as the former Soviet republics were establishing their independence, Russia became aggressive against Moldova and Georgia. Russia sided with separatists in the Abkhazian and South Ossetian regions of Georgia. On August 8, 2008, Russian forces began the invasion of Georgia. After Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili sent troops into the rebellious province of South Ossetia, Russia came to its defense, beginning a five-day-long conflict that ended with Russian troops within striking distance of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. About 850 died and 35,000 Georgians were displaced. Repercussions of the Russo-Georgian War continue to reverberate thirteen years on, shaping the wider geopolitical environment.
As reported in the backgrounder "Ukraine: Conflict at the Crossroads of Europe and Russia" by the Council on Foreign Relations...
In the weeks leading up to NATO’s 2008 summit, President Vladimir Putin warned U.S. diplomats that steps to bring Ukraine into the alliance “would be a hostile act toward Russia.” Months later, Russia went to war with Georgia, seemingly showcasing Putin’s willingness to use force to secure Russia’s interests. (Some independent observers faulted Georgia for initiating the so-called August War but blamed Russia for escalating hostilities into a broader conflict.)
James Wertsch, professor of sociocultural anthropology and global studies at Washington University in St. Louis and Director Emeritus of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, and an expert on Ukraine, has this to say...
Russia’s basic national narrative is that it is the victim of repeated attacks by others and hence a victim. To be sure, Russia HAS been attacked many times by others such as Napoleon and Hitler, but the habits of thought that have emerged make it possible for Russia to see external aggression where others see Russian aggression or imperialism. The Russian invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 among others are cases in point.
Professor Erik Herron, Eberly Family Professor of Political Science at West Virginia University has this to say...
Throughout Russia’s history, it has been involved in many external and internal “attacks.” The Russian Empire fought wars and expanded its territory through force. The Soviet Union attacked Finland, annexed the Baltic states, crushed democratic revolutions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and fought a long war in Afghanistan. Post-Soviet Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine beginning in 2014. It brutally suppressed Chechnya. It also has been a combatant in Syria, attacking hospitals and civilian infrastructure. In sum, Peskov’s claim that “… Россия на протяжении всей своей истории никогда ни на кого не нападала” is outrageously