Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s victory in Ukraine ‘is assured’ and claimed he is trying to end the war that has continued in the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014.
In televised remarks to workers during a visit to a weapons factory in his home town of St. Petersburg, the Russian President told workers and reporters: ‘Victory is assured, I have no doubt about it.’
He said Russia has long sought to negotiate a settlement to the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, where fighting has ranged since 2014, and claimed that Moscow’s invasion of Russia’s neighbour was intended to stop the ‘war’ that has been raging in eastern Ukraine for many years.
Putin’s comments came as NATO’s deputy secretary general warned top military chiefs that Russia was preparing for an extended war, and that its member nations must get ready ‘for the long haul’ and support Ukraine a long as it takes.
Vladimir Putin has said he has ‘no doubt’ that Russia will be successful in Ukraine. Pictured: Putin attends events marking the 80th anniversary of the break of Nazi’s siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in the city on Wednesday
Speaking at the opening of the military chiefs’ meeting as the war nears the one year mark, Mircea Geoana said NATO nations must invest more in defense, ramp up military industrial manufacturing and harness new technologies.
Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and has since been drawn into a protracted conflict. Moscow expected to take the whole of Ukraine in a matter of weeks, but has since been drawn into a protracted conflict.
Kyiv’s forces pushed Russian troops back from the capital just a month after the invasion, and have since inflicted a series of embarrassing defeats on Russia.
‘Large-scale combat operations involving heavy weapons, artillery, tanks and aircraft haven’t stopped in Donbas since 2014,’ Putin said in his address.
‘All that we are doing today, as part of the special military operation, is an attempt to stop this war. This is the meaning of our operation – protecting people who live on those territories.’
Putin again insisted that Russia had tried to negotiate a peaceful settlement before sending in troops, but ‘we were just duped and cheated’. He described Ukraine’s east as Russia’s ‘historic territories’, adding that Moscow conceded their loss after the 1991 Soviet collapse but had to act to protect Russian speakers there.
‘We suffered for a long time, we tried to come to an agreement for a long time. As it turned out, we were simply led by the nose, deceived. We did everything possible to settle this situation by peaceful means,’ he said.
Putin has explained his decision to send troops into Ukraine on February 24 by the need to protect Russian speakers and conduct ‘demilitarization’ and ‘denazification’ of Ukraine to prevent it from posing a threat to Russia – claims rejected by Ukraine and its Western allies as a cover for an unprovoked act of aggression.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends events marking the 80th anniversary of the break of Nazi’s siege of Leningrad, (now St. Petersburg) during World War Two at the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery, where hundreds of thousands of siege victims are buried, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Also on Wednesday, Putin attended the meeting with veterans during Wednesday’s visit to St. Petersburg to mark the 80th anniversary of the Red Army breaking the Nazi siege of the city on Jan. 18, 1943.
The siege of the city that was then called Leningrad lasted nearly 900 days and was only fully lifted in January 1944, marking one of the bloodiest pages of World War II.
About 1 million people died in Leningrad during the siege, most of them from starvation.
Putin on Wednesday laid a wreath at the city’s Piskaryov memorial cemetery where 420,000 civilian victims of the siege and 70,000 Soviet soldiers were buried.
He also put flowers in a section where his brother, who died as a child during the siege, was buried in a mass grave.
Putin’s comments came as Russia’s war on Ukraine nears the one year mark.
At a meeting this week, NATO chiefs are expected to discuss how allies can expand the delivery of weapons, training and support to Ukraine in the coming months, and how they can further shore up their own defenses.
‘We have no indication that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s goals have changed,’ said Geoana, adding that Russia has mobilized more than 200,000 additional troops. ‘So we must be prepared for the long haul. 2023 will be a difficult year and we need to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.’
U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met quietly on Tuesday with Ukraine’s chief military officer, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, at an undisclosed location in southeastern Poland, near the Ukrainian border. And he is expected to relay Zaluzhnyi’s concerns to the other military leaders at the meeting.
Milley’s meeting with Zaluzhnyi was quickly arranged when it became clear Monday that the Ukraine chief would not be able to attend the NATO sessions in person. He’s expected to attend by video conference on Thursday.
Army Col. Dave Butler, Milley’s spokesman, said the chairman planned to describe to the NATO chiefs ‘the tactical and operational conditions on the battlefield and what the military needs are for that.’
Adm. Rob Bauer, the chair of the NATO Military Committee, told the gathering of chiefs on Wednesday that the alliance must continue to transform to meet future fights.
‘The war has also shown us that you have to be able to fight tomorrow’s battles, as well as yesterday’s battles, today,’ said Bauer, who is with the Royal Netherlands Navy. ‘Modern warfare is just as much about bits and bots as it is about mud and blood.’
He noted that about a year ago, the NATO Russia Council held its last meeting.
‘Back then we were still able to sit around the same table,’ he said, adding that now, after Russia’s brutal invasion and war in Ukraine, ‘the world is a different place.’
NATO, he said, has proven it can quickly increase and shift its military presence when and where needed. And he echoed the commitment that the alliance is prepared to support Ukraine for as long as needed.
Putin, he said, ‘underestimated the scale and bravery of Ukrainian people, armed forces and leadership, and underestimated our unity and our solidarity with Ukraine.’
That alliance support, he said, has made a difference on the battlefield, and it will continue.