Tuesday Feb 21, 2023
MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday vowed to continue with Russia's year-long war in Ukraine and accused the US-led NATO alliance of fanning the flames of the conflict in the mistaken belief that it could defeat Russia.
Flanked by four Russian tricolour flags on either side of him, Putin told Russia's political and military elite that Russia would "carefully and consistently resolve the tasks facing us."
Putin said Russia had done everything it could to avoid war, but that Western-backed Ukraine had been planning to attack Crimea.
The West, Putin said, had let the genie out of the bottle in a host of regions of across the world by sowing chaos and war.
"The people of Ukraine themselves have become hostages of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, who have actually occupied this country in a political, military, and economic sense," Putin said.
Defeating Russia, he said, was impossible.
The Ukraine conflict is by far the biggest bet by a Kremlin chief since at least the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union — and a gamble Western leaders such as US President Joe Biden say he must lose.
Russian forces have suffered three major battlefield reversals since the war began but still control around one fifth of Ukraine.
Tens of thousands of men have been killed, and Putin, 70, now says Russia is locked in an existential battle with an arrogant West which he says wants to carve up Russia and steal its vast natural resources.
The West and Ukraine reject that narrative, and say NATO expansion eastwards is no justification for what they say is an imperial-style land grab doomed to failure.