Putin speaks about Ukraine during first foreign trip since February
Russia’s objectives in Ukraine have not changed, Russian President Vladimir Putin explained on Wednesday during a press conference in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
The president clarified that while the goals stay the same, the tactics used to achieve them may change according to what the military considers appropriate. However, he insisted that “everything is going according to plan.”
“Nothing has changed,” Putin insisted, saying the final goal is “to liberate Donbass, to protect these people and to create conditions that would guarantee the safety of Russia itself. That’s it.”
“I'm not talking about deadlines, I never do, because that’s life, this is reality. Imposing deadlines is wrong, because it is related to the intensity of fighting, and the intensity is directly linked to the possible casualties. And we have to first and foremost think about preserving the lives of our guys,” he said.
Commenting on NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg's acknowledgement that the bloc had been getting ready for a conflict since 2014, Putin said that it was “nothing new” for Moscow. He added that, for a long time, the US has been looking for an external enemy in order to rally its allies around Washington, and Russia was a better fit for that role than Iran.
This once again confirms what we have been saying all along: that NATO is a Cold War relic. We were always told that NATO has changed, that it is a political bloc now, but everyone was looking for a chance and a justification to give it a new momentum as a specifically military organisation. And there you go, they do it.
Responding to questions about Finland and Sweden joining the bloc, Putin said the West’s portrayal of this as a defeat for Russia, in its attempt to keep NATO away, is completely false.
“We don’t have the kind of problems with Sweden and Finland that we unfortunately do with Ukraine,” he said. “We have no territorial disputes, we have nothing that would worry us with regards to Finland and Sweden’s NATO memberships. If they want to, let them.”
“They have to clearly understand that they didn’t have any threats before, but now, if military forces and infrastructure are located there, we will be forced to respond tit-for-tat, and create the same threats for the territories we are threatened from,” Putin warned. “This is obvious. Do they not understand it? Everything was fine before between us, but now there will be tension, of course, I repeat, if we are threatened.”
However, Putin underlined that Moscow does not view the potential threats from Stockholm and Helsinki as being as dangerous as those coming from Kiev in recent years.
For us, Finland and Sweden in NATO is entirely different from Ukraine in NATO.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.
Vladimir Putin visited Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, on Wednesday, during his first foreign trip since the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. He attended the sixth Caspian summit, meeting with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The day before that, he visited Tajikistan and met with its president Emomali Rahmon.