Putin chides West, defends Ukraine invasion in major speech

AFP , AP , Tuesday 21 Feb 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Western countries of igniting and sustaining the war in Ukraine in his state of the nation address on Tuesday.

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo courtesy of Russian News Agency TASS


Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western countries of igniting and sustaining the war in Ukraine, dismissing any blame for Moscow almost a year after the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbor that has killed tens of thousands of people.

In his long-delayed state-of-the-nation address, Putin cast Russia — and Ukraine — as victims of Western double-dealing and said Russia, not Ukraine, was the one fighting for its very existence.

“We aren’t fighting the Ukrainian people,” Putin said in a speech days before the war’s first anniversary on Friday. Ukraine “has become hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country.”

“Western elites aren’t trying to conceal their goals, to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ to Russia,” said the Russian leader in the speech broadcast by all state TV channels. “They intend to transform the local conflict into a global confrontation.”

He added that Russia is prepared to respond to that as “it will be a matter of our country’s existence.”

Before the speech, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Russian leader would focus on the “special military operation” in Ukraine, as Moscow calls it, and Russia’s economy and social issues. Many observers predicted it would also address Moscow’s fallout with the West — and Putin began with strong words for those countries.

"The responsibility for fuelling the Ukrainian conflict, for its escalation, for the number of victims... lies completely with Western elites," Putin said.

“It’s they who have started the war. And we are using force to end it,” Putin added before an audience of lawmakers, state officials and soldiers who have fought in Ukraine.

Putin accused the west of the West of launching “aggressive information attacks” and taking aim at Russian culture, religion and values because it is aware that “it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield."

He also accused Western nations of waging an attack on Russia’s economy with sanctions — but declared but they hadn't “achieved anything and will not achieve anything."

Putin also said that Russia would suspend its participation in a treaty aimed at keeping a lid on nuclear weapons expansion. The so-called New START Treaty was signed by Russia and the U.S. in 2010. It caps the number of long-range nuclear warheads they can deploy and limits the use of missiles that can carry atomic weapons.

Putin said Tuesday in a major address that Russia was not fully withdrawing from the treaty yet. He said Russia must stand ready to resume nuclear weapons tests if the US does so.

Analysts expected Putin's speech would be tough in the wake of U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Kyiv on Monday. Biden plans to give his own speech later Tuesday in Poland, where he’s expected to highlight the commitment of the central European country and other allies to Ukraine over the past year.



Short link: