Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomenewsPutin: Russia’s goals in Ukraine unchanged, no peace until they’re achieved

Putin: Russia’s goals in Ukraine unchanged, no peace until they’re achieved

Russia’s goals in Ukraine remain unchanged and there will be no peace until they are achieved, President Vladimir Putin has said in his first end-of-year news conference since the offensive began.

The event on Thursday comes days after Putin announced that he will run in the March 2024 presidential election, in which the 71-year-old leader is almost certain to win a fifth term. He has been in power for 24 years, including his prime ministerial stint, and a victory next year will see him remain president until 2030.

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Fielding questions from the public and the media in Moscow, the Russian leader said peace will be possible after “denazification, demilitarisation and a neutral status” of Ukraine – something he has repeated since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia alleges that Ukraine’s government is heavily influenced by “radical nationalist” and neo-Nazi groups, which Kyiv and the West dispute. Putin has also consistently demanded that Ukraine remain neutral and not join the NATO military alliance.

“As for demilitarisation, they don’t want to negotiate, so we are then forced to take other measures, including military measures,” Putin said.

“Either we agree or we need to resolve [the issue] by force,” he added.

Putin said there are some 617,000 Russian soldiers currently in Ukraine, including about 244,000 who were called up to fight alongside professional Russian military forces. But there was no current need for a further mobilisation of reservists, he added.

He said an estimated 486,000 people had so far signed up voluntarily as contract soldiers, on top of the 300,000 people called up last year, and “the flow is not diminishing”.

Last December, in a break from tradition, Putin cancelled the event. It was the first time in a decade he did not hold the conference.

This year, key themes of the conference were the fighting in Ukraine, payments to soldiers and their families and the economy.

‘A tragedy’

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Putin said Ukraine had lost some of its best troops in an attempt to secure a foothold on the east bank of the Dnipro in the Kherson region. “It is a tragedy, I believe, for them,” he said.

As the war approaches the end of its second year, Ukraine has achieved only small gains from a counteroffensive that began in June.

Russia, however, has also made no tangible progress since capturing the city of Bakhmut at heavy cost in May. It occupies about a sixth of Ukraine’s territory but does not fully control any of the four Ukrainian regions it claimed last year as part of Russia.

On the ongoing war and relations with the West, Putin said: “The unbridled desire to creep towards our borders, taking Ukraine into NATO, all this led to this tragedy … They forced us into these actions.”

Meanwhile on Russia’s relations with China, he said, “the level of our ties with China is at an all-time high”.

Putin also said it was important that United Nations mechanisms, such as the veto power of permanent member states of the UN Security Council, remained in place.

Asked by a Turkish journalist about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, he said he hoped to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in early 2024.

And commenting on new Argentinian President Javier Milei’s plan to dollarise his country’s economy, Putin said it risked jeopardising the country’s sovereignty.

On the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, Putin said he was not against Russians competing, but that the country should ponder whether it should if the event is designed to portray Russian sport as “dying”.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week said qualifying athletes from Russia and Belarus – who had been banned from competing internationally following the invasion of Ukraine – could take part in the Games as neutrals without flags, emblems or anthems.

“We still need to carefully analyse the conditions the IOC has put forward,” Putin said. “If the IOC’s artificial conditions are designed to cut off the best Russian athletes and portray at the Olympics that Russian sport is dying, then you need to decide whether to go there at all.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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