Vladimir Putin has admitted that Russia’s war in Ukraine could turn into a “long-term process” as he tries to fend off an invasion that has forced Russian troops to withdraw and even air bases deep inside Russia have come under fire.
Addressing members of his personal human rights council on Wednesday, Putin argued that Russia would not use nuclear weapons first in any conflict, denied that Russian troops were deserting the battlefield en masse and argued that he would not need to mobilize more troops. , a process that caused significant upheaval in Russia.
But mostly the Russian president defended the “special military operation” – his preferred term for what he openly admitted was a Russian war of conquest that he compared to the territorial ambitions of former Russian tsars.
“As for the slow process of the special military operation, then of course it can be a long-term process,” Putin said. “But then you mentioned that new territories had emerged. This is such a significant result for Russia… The Sea of Azov has become an internal Russian sea. Even Peter I fought for access to the Sea of Azov.
Russia has been forced to leave some of those “annexed” territories, notably fleeing the city of Kherson last month due to a widespread Ukrainian counterattack. Russia is now regularly shelling the city of Kherson on the other side of the Dnieper River, effectively invading what it considers its territory.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended the tactic last week, saying the Russians also shelled Stalingrad during World War II.
In his address on Wednesday, Putin denied that his administration was planning another round of mass mobilization. He claimed that of the 300,000 mobilized Russians, only half had been sent to the conflict zone, while the rest were still in training camps.
“Under these conditions, any talk about the procedure for additional mobilization simply does not make sense.” “This is simply not necessary for the state and defense ministries,” he said. The previous round of mobilization, announced in mid-September, was preceded by official denials.
Putin also denied that the Russian military had suffered mass desertions in Ukraine fueled by poor conditions and low morale. It followed reports by independent Russian media about secret prison camps in the Russian-occupied Donbas, where dozens of soldiers who refused to fight were held in appalling conditions.
“Any guys who left their combat posts?” Yes, it used to happen… less and less now,” he said. “I repeat once again that there are no such cases [desertions] have a mass character”.
Putin devoted some of his remarks to questions about the potential for nuclear war, which he said was increasingly likely because of the conflict with the West.
“This threat is increasing, I cannot deny that,” Putin said in response to a question, adding that Russia would not be the first to use the weapon.
“We are not crazy, we are aware of what nuclear weapons are.” We have these assets, and they are more advanced and modern than those of any other nuclear country. As of today, it is an obvious fact.
“We will not wave this weapon like a razor, running around the world, but of course we act with the understanding that it exists.”