A sign quoting Vladimir Putin about the endlessness of Russia's frontiers has received millions of views on social media, prompting speculation among users about the intention of the message.
"This morning an electronic billboard on my way to work is displaying this Putin quote," BBC Russian editor Steve Rosenberg said on X (formerly Twitter) next to an image taken of the sign in between roads packed with traffic.
The billboard has the logo of the state news agency Tass and carries the Putin comment that "Russia's borders do not end anywhere," wrote Rosenberg.
The sign says that Putin made the comment in 2023 and appears to refer to a question he was asked during a meeting of the Moscow-based think tank, the Valdai Discussion Club, in October.
Putin answered that he first made the comment during a meeting with a former U.S. president, whom he did not name, at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence in the Moscow region. "It was said in jest, of course, when he looked at the map of the Russian Federation," Putin said, explaining that the phrase has a "civilizational meaning" because "the Russian world has a global character," with Russian citizens and their language in all continents.
"Russia has not borders but neither do other civilizations," Putin said, referring to India and China and their diasporas and that peoples of many countries "overlap and interact with each other."
However, Rosenberg's post prompted a lively thread, and as of Tuesday had received more than 2.6 million views.
In December, U.S. President Joe Biden warned that if Putin were to win in his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he would look further afield and attack NATO members, a view the Russian president has rejected as "nonsense."
As the West debates whether to continue its level of financial support for Kyiv, there are concerns about the wider threat to Europe that Russia poses, especially as Putin has spoken of protecting Russian-speaking minorities in neighboring countries such as the Baltic states.
Underneath Rosenberg's post, X user Mell Hellem wrote how a billboard had appeared in the Russian border city of Ivangorod, opposite the Estonian city of Narva showing an image of Putin with the same quote. Ivan Shuskin wrote "Illegal propaganda?"
"A timely reminder that Putin will not stop with Ukraine unless he is stopped in Ukraine," wrote pro-Ukrainian user Lev Havryliv. Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta wrote: "The laws of Russia are not formulated anywhere."
Russian state news outlet Lenta reported that Putin had used the phrase during an award ceremony of the Russian Geographical Society (RGS) in November 2016 after a schoolboy said that Russia's borders "end through the Bering Strait with the United States. The BBC reported that Putin's comment "is essentially correct—unlike the territory of the country, the state border is an imaginary closed line."