President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused the West of using the Ukraine conflict to “be done” with Russia, said traitors must be punished, and proclaimed that Moscow had successfully withstood Western sanctions.
“Western elites are not hiding their goal — to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia. It means to be done with us once and for all,” Putin said three days before the first anniversary of the military intervention in Ukraine.
“The responsibility for fuelling the Ukrainian conflict, for its escalation, for the number of victims… lies completely with Western elites,” Putin said, repeating his claim that the West was supporting neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine.
Russia remains determined to fulfil all its tasks in Ukraine, Putin said.
His army has faced a long series of humiliating defeats over the past year, even after the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of reservists last September.
“To ensure the security of our country, to eliminate the threat that came from the neo-Nazi regime that emerged in Ukraine after the 2014 coup, it was decided to conduct a special military operation,” he said.
“Step by step, we will carefully and systematically solve the aims that face us.”
– Sanctions’ failure –
Speaking in front of the political elites and servicemen who fought in Ukraine, Putin also “thanked the entire Russian people for their courage and determination.”
He, however, did not detail his strategy to win on the ground in Ukraine, nor did he elaborate on Russian military losses — which the West and Ukraine say are huge.
Experts have pointed out that the Russian economy weathered Western sanctions over Moscow’s military intervention better than expected.
“They have not succeeded and will not succeed,” Putin said.
“We ensured the stability of the economic situation and protected our citizens,” Putin added, slamming Western attempts to “destabilise our society.”
Russian official data on Monday showed the economy contracted by 2.1 percent last year despite sanctions — far less than had been expected.
Putin predicted inflation would soon stabilise around its target level of 4 percent.
Referring to the Russian billionaires whose assets, foreign accounts and yachts have been seized, Putin said that “no one among ordinary people felt sorry for them.”
“Everyone must understand that the sources of well-being and the future should be only here, in their native country: Russia.”
“Invest in Russia,” he urged, “the state and society will support you.”
– Traitors and pedophiles –
Putin also indicated that Russian authorities could ramp up pressure on dissenters, saying traitors must be brough to justice.
“Those who have embarked on the path of betrayal of Russia must be held accountable under the law,” Putin said.
However, he added that authorities would not unleash a “witch hunt” against dissenters.
Since the beginning of the offensive, the Russian government has cracked down hard on what little remained of the opposition.
Criticism of Moscow’s offensive can lead to prison sentences of up to 15 years.
Putin, who frequently decries Western gender and sexual freedoms as an existential danger, also said paedophilia had become the norm in the West.
“Look at what they do to their own people: the destruction of families, of cultural and national identities and the perversion that is child abuse all the way up to paedophilia are advertised as the norm… and priests are forced to bless same-sex marriages,” Putin said.
–Agence France-Presse VIDEO