Putin vows to push war in Ukraine, restates missile warning
Putin gave his address a day after US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv
President Vladimir Putin vowed to press on with his faltering invasion of Ukraine until Russia’s goals are achieved and threatened a backlash if the US and its allies supply the government in Kyiv with long-range missiles.
“We will fulfil the tasks set step-by-step, carefully and consistently,” because Russia is fighting for its “historic lands” in Ukraine, Putin told the Russian parliament and top officials in Moscow on Tuesday.
“One thing should be clear to everyone - the more long-range Western systems arrive in Ukraine, the further we will be forced to move the threat away from our borders. It’s obvious.”
Putin gave his first state-of-the-nation address in nearly two years as Russia’s war in Ukraine nears the 12-month mark on 24 February. He spoke on the anniversary of his decision to recognize Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent, whose defence he used as the excuse to mount the full-scale invasion.
Despite the anticipation, the speech covered mainly Putin’s usual efforts to shift the blame for the conflict to the US and its allies, where he claimed godlessness and paedophilia have become “the norm.”
Ukraine’s US and European allies want “to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation,” Putin said in a speech repeatedly interrupted by applause. “We understand this and will respond accordingly because in this case we’re talking about the existence of our country.”
Much of the address focused on domestic issues. He offered new benefits for veterans their families, as well as defence workers.
Having failed with initial plans to seize Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, within days, Russia’s military has suffered repeated defeats and massive casualties at the hands of Ukrainian forces backed by US and European weapons supplies. Putin gave his address a day after US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv to underline continued American support for Ukraine.
As intense battles of attrition go on in eastern Ukrainian regions with neither side making much progress for months, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed at a security conference in Munich at the weekend for the US and its allies to speed up weapons deliveries to help counter a Russian spring offensive and allow his forces to take the initiative in the fight.
“The West has embarked on a military, information and economic battle against us but they haven’t and won’t achieve a thing,” Putin said.
The Kremlin leader has shrugged off rising Russian casualties and is steeling the country and its economy for a long war. He called up 300,000 troops in a partial mobilisation in September and has sought to convince Russians that his unprovoked attack on Ukraine is an existential struggle with the “collective West” for their country’s survival, repeatedly comparing it to the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II.
While he said at the start of his invasion that “it is not our plan to occupy Ukrainian territory,” Putin signed an order declaring the annexation of four regions of eastern and southern Ukraine in September that his troops didn’t fully control.
Ukraine wrested back control of part of that territory including the southern city of Kherson in November, the only regional capital Russian forces had occupied.
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