Monday, February 6, 2023
Feb. 6, 2023

Linkedin Pinterest

Putin: Fight was our only option

Russian leader says war taking longer than expected

By
Published:
5 Photos
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the annual meeting of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the annual meeting of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) (LIBKOS) Photo Gallery

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Wednesday that his “special military operation” in Ukraine is taking longer than expected but said it has succeeded in seizing new territory and that his country’s nuclear weapons are deterring escalation of the conflict.

“Of course, it could be a lengthy process,” Putin said of the war, which began with Russia’s invasion Feb. 24 and has displaced millions from their homes, killing and wounding tens of thousands. Despite its length, he showed no signs of letting up, vowing to “consistently fight for our interests” and to “protect ourselves using all means available.” He reiterated his claim that he had no choice but to send in troops, saying that for years, the West responded to Russia’s security demands with “only spit in the face.”

Speaking during a televised meeting in Russia with members of his Human Rights Council, Putin described the land gains as “a significant result for Russia,” noting that the Sea of Azov “has become Russia’s internal sea.” In one of his frequent historic references to a Russian leader he admires, he added that “Peter the Great fought to get access” to that body of water.

After failing to take Kyiv due to fierce Ukrainian resistance, Russia seized broad swaths of southern Ukraine at the start of the invasion and captured the key Sea of Azov port of Mariupol in May after a nearly three-month siege. In September, Putin illegally annexed four Ukrainian regions even though his forces didn’t completely control them: Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south, and Donetsk and Luhansk in the east. In 2014, he had illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

In response to an increasing influx of advanced Western weapons; economic, political and humanitarian aid to Kyiv; and what he saw as Western leaders’ inflammatory statements, Putin has periodically hinted at his potential use of nuclear weapons. When a member of the Human Rights Council asked him Wednesday to pledge that Russia would not be the first to use such weapons, Putin demurred. He said Russia would not be able to use nuclear weapons at all if it agreed not to use them first.

“If it doesn’t use it first under any circumstances, it means that it won’t be the second to use it either, because the possibility of using it in case of a nuclear strike on our territory will be sharply limited,” he said.

Putin rejected Western criticism that his previous nuclear weapons comments amounted to saber-rattling, claiming they were “not a factor provoking an escalation of conflicts, but a factor of deterrence.”

“We haven’t gone mad. We are fully aware of what nuclear weapons are,” Putin said. He added: “We have them, and they are more advanced and state-of-the-art than what any other nuclear power has.”

In his televised remarks, the Russian leader didn’t address his military’s battlefield setbacks or its attempts to cement control over the seized regions but acknowledged problems with supplies, treatment of wounded soldiers and limited desertions.

Russian troops have withdrawn not only from the Kyiv area and around the country’s largest city, Kharkiv, but from a large part of the Kherson region. Another problem for Putin are attacks this week against air force bases deep inside Russia. He put much of the country, especially border areas, on security alert recently, and fresh signs emerged Wednesday that Russian officials are strengthening border defensive positions.

In the Kursk region bordering Ukraine, the governor posted photos of new concrete anti-tank barriers — known as “dragon’s teeth” — in open fields. On Tuesday, the governor said a fire had broken out at an airport in the region after a drone strike.

Loading...