Russian President Vladimir Putin shared his perception that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 had been a disaster for many citizens and said that he had had to work as a cab driver to survive. 

“Sometimes I had to earn extra money,” Putin expressed, in an interview adding, “I mean, earn extra money by car, as a private driver. It’s unpleasant to talk about to be honest but, unfortunately, that was the case,” according to The Guardian on Dec. 13. 

“After all, what is the collapse of the Soviet Union? This is the collapse of historical Russia under the name of the Soviet Union,” Putin said, referring to the nearly 1,000-year period that brought together 290 million people.

He also called it “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century”, which in his personal life led him to engage in various activities to supplement his income, reflecting the economic hardships that many Russians went through at that time.  

The disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) plunged the vast region into significant economic instability, which meant poverty for many people.

Putin was an agent of the Soviet Union’s KGB security services, and in 1996 he moved to Moscow to take up the top post of deputy administrator for presidential affairs.

For its part, Russia was moving from communism to capitalism after having been the center of the 15 republics linked to the USSR that occupied from the Baltic Sea in the west to Central Asia, bordering China.

Finally, these statements seem to be an allusion to recent frictions with the West, caused by an apparent advance on countries that were part of the Soviet Union, as is the case of Ukraine. 

“Putin is sensitive to the perceived expansion of western military ambitions into ex-Soviet countries and Russia last week demanded that Nato formally scrap a 2008 decision to open its door to Georgia and Ukraine,” notes The Guardian. 

The movements of the Russian army within its territory have been interpreted as an attempt by Russia to invade Ukraine, and alarms have been raised on the subject. 

In this regard, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged NATO to prepare a series of economic sanctions against Russia to deter a possible invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the edge of its border.

However, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the organization has no obligation to defend Ukraine from Russia. 

“It is important to distinguish between Nato allies and partner Ukraine. Nato allies, there we provide [Article 5] guarantees, collective defence guarantees, and we will defend and protect all allies. Ukraine is a partner, a highly-valued partner,” Stoltenberg added, making his position on the conflict clear.

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