Analysts drew comparisons between Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler following the Russian president’s speech announcing the annexation of Crimea March 18.
Putin, in a speech characterized as forceful and angry, told the assembled Russian leadership at the Kremlin that Crimea was rightfully a part of Russia, not Ukraine.
"In people's hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia. This firm conviction, based on truth and justice, was unshakeable and passed from generation to generation," said Putin, "What do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They tell us that we are violating the norms of international law."
Western analysts noted the similarities between Putin’s speech and that of Hitler in the 1930’s.
"An awful sense of déjà vu was conveyed by Putin’s speech in both substance and form," wrote Peterson Institute Senior Fellow Anders Åslund. Putin presented Russia as a "radical revisionist and revanchist state," he wrote.
Åslund noted twelve striking similarities between the Putin speech and Nazi Germany’s public advocacy in the late 1930’s. These include: nationality defined by language and ethnicity, historical injustice to Russia, borders drawn incorrectly, and a rigged referendum to justify annexation of Crimea.
The Daily Mail also drew parallels between Hitler’s 1938 speech about the seizure of Sudetenland and Putin’s speech.
"The uncompromising autocrat got to his feet and made a bombastic speech as he seized a part of a neighbouring state dominated by his own countrymen. It came in the midst of a referendum condemned by other powers as a sham. … The despot in question is not Vladimir Putin but Adolf Hitler," the paper noted in a sidebar.
Moskovsky Komsomolets quoted Russian parliamentarian Dmitry Gudkov, who was worried about the reaction of the West to Putin’s aggression and what would happen to those who dissent at home.
"This means sanctions from European countries," said Gudkov, expressing concern about the Russian economy. "There will be a crackdown. If any politician, civil society member, will express opinions that do not match the general line, he will be declared a fifth column."
Masha Lipman of the Moscow Carnegie Center said Putin used the word "Russkiy" (usually meaning ethnic Russian) several times instead of "Rossiykiy" (Russian citizen). This suggests that the Ukrainian crisis rhetoric has shifted toward ethnic nationalism.
In a country where nationalist slogans such as "Russia for the Russians" are often voiced, this is very dangerous, says Lipman, according to Vedomosti.
Additionally, Putin’s made references to foreign enemies and national traitors in his speech. Lipman said such words lead to expectations of "tightening of the screws."
Earlier this month, protests took place throughout Russia against the annexation of Crimea. Thousands of people came out to demonstrate according to some reports. Protestors carried signs, such as "Forgive us, Ukraine," "No to war," and "Ukraine, we are with you."
Prior to that, on February 1-2, the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Center found that 73 percent of Russians are against the Kremlin’s intervention in Ukraine. The police force in Moscow and St. Petersburg arrested over 300 people for protesting against Putin’s invasion.