MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow will press on with its military action in Ukraine until reaching its goals and mocked Western attempts to drive Russia into a corner with sanctions.
Putin told at an annual economic forum in the far-eastern port city of Vladivostok that the main goal behind sending troops into Ukraine was protecting civilians in the east of that country after eight years of fighting.
“It wasn’t us who started the military action, we are trying to put an end to it,” Putin said, reaffirming his argument that he sent troops into Ukraine to protect Moscow-backed separatist regions in Ukraine, which have fought Ukrainian forces in the conflict that erupted in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“All our action has been aimed at helping people living in the Donbas, it’s our duty and we will fulfill it until the end,” he said.
Putin charged that Russia has strengthened its sovereignty in the face of Western sanctions, which he said bordered on an aggression.
“Russia has resisted the economic, financial and technological aggression of the West,” Putin said. “I’m sure that we haven’t lost anything and we won’t lose anything. The most important gain is the strengthening of our sovereignty, it’s an inevitable result of what’s going one.”
The Russian leader said that the economic and financial situation in Russia has stabilized, consumer price inflation has slowed down and unemployment has remained low.
“There has been a certain polarization in the world and inside the country, but I see it as a positive thing,” he added. “Everything unnecessary, harmful, everything that has prevented us from going forward will be rejected and we will gain development tempo because development can only be based on sovereignty.”
Putin emphasized that Russia will keep protecting its sovereignty in the face of what he described as an attempt by the US and its allies to preserve their global dominance, saying that “the world mustn’t be founded on the diktat of one country that deemed itself the representative of the almighty or even higher and based its policies on its perceived exclusivity.”
He scoffed at Western attempts to cap prices for Russian oil and gas, calling the idea “stupid” and saying that Russia will have enough customers in Asia. “The demand is so high on global markets that we won’t have any problem selling it,” he said.
“An attempt to limit prices by administrative means is just ravings, it’s sheer nonsense,” Putin added. “It will only lead to a hike in prices.”
He rejected the EU’s argument that Russia was using energy as a weapon by suspending gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany.
Putin reaffirmed the Russian argument that Western sanctions have hampered the maintenance of the last turbine that remains in operation, forcing its shutdown.
He repeated that Moscow stands ready to “press the button” and start pumping gas “as early as tomorrow” through the Nord Stream 2, which has been put on hold by the German authorities.