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Putin likens opponents to 'gnats,' signaling new repression

Vladimir Putin
Posted at 5:21 AM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 05:21:47-04

NEW YORK (AP) — Facing stiff resistance in Ukraine and with crippling economic sanctions at home, Russian President Vladimir Putin is using language that recalls the rhetoric from Josef Stalin's show trials of the 1930s.

Putin's ominous speech Wednesday likened opponents to “gnats” who try to weaken the country at the behest of the West.

His angry rant set the stage for sweeping repressions against those who dare to speak out against the war in Ukraine.

It appeared to reflect Putin's frustration about the slow pace of the Russian offensive in Ukraine and swiftly mounting economic pressures.

Russia has been battered by Western sanctions that cut the government’s access to about half of its hard currency reserves.