Vladimir Putin today held his first year-end press conference since the launch of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with the Russian president feeling the tide turning in his favour nearly two years into the war.
Looking relatively relaxed, he covered a multitude of topics. Here are five things you need to know about…
- Musings on sovereignty
Without a hint of irony, the man who launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and sparked the biggest land war in Europe since World War 2, said: “The existence of our country without sovereignty is impossible.
“It simply will not exist, at least in the form in which it exists today, and in which it existed for 1000 years.
“Therefore, the main thing is to strengthen sovereignty.”
Putin also reiterated his “one nation” thesis, claiming “Russians and Ukrainians are one people.”
He added: “And what is happening is a huge tragedy, similar to a civil war between brothers.”
- The “special military operation”
The 71-year-old Russian leader brushed off nearly two years of Western sanctions and reaffirmed his maximalist goals in Ukraine.
"There will be peace when we achieve our goals," Putin said, speaking at his first end-of-year press conference since Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022, AFP reports.
“They are not changing. I will remind you what we talked about: the de-nazification and de-militarisation of Ukraine, and its neutral status,” Putin said, adding that Russian forces were improving their position on almost the entire line of contact.”
Putin failed to mention that the first time he announced these goals – at the launch of the full-scale invasion – he thought they would be achieved in a matter of weeks.
Instead, Ukraine scuppered Putin’s plan and Russia has so far, according to the latest assessment, suffered 315,000 dead and injured soldiers – equivalent to 87 percent of its 360,000 initial personnel when it began the full-scale phase of its war in February 2022.
Despite this, on Thursday he said: “There is enough for us not only to feel confident, but to move forward.”
A man watches a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's year-end press conference on a TV screen at the office of Defenders of Fatherland State Fund in Yekaterinburg. PHOTO: AFP
- Troops in Ukraine
President disclosed that Russian had deployed more than 600,000 military personnel in Ukraine, nearly two years after he ordered his troops to capture the capital Kyiv.
Kyiv and Moscow are believed to have suffered massive casualties after months of large-scale hostilities and the United States believes some 315,000 Russian soldiers have either been killed or wounded.
“The front line is over 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles) long. There are 617,000 people in the conflict zone,” Putin said.
He added that some 244,000 mobilised troops were currently stationed in territories in Ukraine that are occupied by Russian forces.
He also said there were no immediate plans to introduce a fresh round of mobilisation of Russian men for the conflict.
- Comparisons to Gaza
Putin described the situation in the Gaza Strip as a “catastrophe” unfolding on a scale that could not be compared to the Ukraine conflict.
Putin, whose government has maintained ties with Hamas and Israel, gave the comments during a news conference in Moscow, as his full-scale military intervention against Kyiv approaches the two-year mark.
“Everybody here and around the world can see and look at the special military operation and at what is happening in Gaza and feel the difference,” he said, using the Kremlin's name for its war in Ukraine.
“But there is nothing like this in Ukraine,” he added.
The war between Israel and Hamas – now in its third month – began after the October 7 attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas, which Israeli officials say killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
It has left besieged Gaza in ruins and killed more than 18,600 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Russia has since February 2022 systemically targeted Ukrainian cities with missiles and drones, and occupied large swathes of the south and east of the country following fierce hostilities.
The UN has said that more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine, warning that the real toll is likely to be much higher.
A security guard watches a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's year-end press conference on a TV screen at his workplace in an administrative building in Yekaterinburg. PHOTO: AFP
- On the West
It wouldn’t be a Putin speech if he didn’t blame everything wrong with the world on the West, and today he didn’t disappoint.
"The unbridled desire to creep towards our borders, taking Ukraine into NATO, all this led to this tragedy,” he said.
“Plus the bloody events in Donbass for eight years - all this led to the tragedy that we are now experiencing. They forced us into these actions...
"What the United States conceived and organized, Europe stands and silently watches, or plays and sings along with them there. Well how can we build relations with them?"
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