Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Wednesday that the war in Ukraine was a “long process” and boasted of having achieved a “meaningful result” — the acquisition of illegally annexed territory — saying there was no need to mobilize additional soldiers at the moment.
“As for the long process and the results of the SMO, of course, this is a long process, maybe,” Putin said. “But then you mentioned that new territories have appeared. This is still a meaningful result for Russia. This is a serious issue. And, no use denying it, the Sea of Azov has become the inland sea of the Russian Federation. These are serious things.”
His comments referred to all of the coastal Ukrainian territory now in Russian hands, from the Russian border to the east bank of the Dnieper River, including parts of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, which Putin has claimed to be annexed.
While warning that “the threat of nuclear war is growing,” Putin defended the Russian nuclear strategy and said it was based on “retaliatory strikes.”
“We have not gone crazy. We are aware of what nuclear weapons are,” he said. “We have these tools, and they are in a more modern state than in any other nuclear country, but we are not going to brandish them like a razor all over around the world.”
The Russian leader and other senior officials had previously hinted that Moscow could turn to nuclear weapons to defend what it considers to be its own sovereign territory or deter Ukrainian strikes inside Russia. By maintaining that Russia would not strike first, Putin reinforced allegations that the United States and its NATO allies are responsible for creating a threat of a nuclear conflict.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with Funke Media published Thursday that international pressure had diminished the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons.
The remarks from Putin followed weeks of battlefield setbacks resulting from Ukrainian counteroffensives, carried out with a stream of Western weaponry, that pushed Russian forces to retreat from swaths of east and south Ukraine. The Russian surrender of the city of Kherson last month marked a blow in the bid to sweep through Ukraine.
The meeting Wednesday with loyalists and groups in favor of the war touched on tough conditions on the front lines as the winter cold bites, but Putin signaled Russian forces should brace for the long haul. He also said nearly 150,000 of the 300,000 reservists called up by October had been sent to Ukraine, including to combat units, while the rest were at training centers, so it made “no sense” to discuss further mobilization.
Mary Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.
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