Putin says goals in Ukraine have not changed and vows to press ahead
Russia's goals in Ukraine have not changed since the conflict began in February 2022, president Vladimir Putin said at his annual press conference on Thursday. "A solution will be negotiated or achieved by force," he said.
On Thursday, Putin held his first press conference since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. During the conference, which is broadcast on national television, journalists and citizens can put questions to the president.
Centered on Ukraine
Most of the questions were about Ukraine. Putin declared that peace was only possible with the "denazification" and "demilitarisation" of Ukraine. He also accused Ukraine of "genocide" against Russian-speakers in the country.
He said there was no need for a new partial mobilisation, as the 300,000 soldiers called up last year have produced "excellent" results. Putin claims that another 486,000 have volunteered, and that a total of 617,000 Russian troops are currently fighting in Ukraine.
"Peace will come when we have achieved our goals"
The ultimate goal of the conflict is a "neutral" Ukraine, he said. "Peace will come when we have achieved our goals." On the topic of diplomacy, Putin hopes for a prisoner exchange deal between Russia and the US and added that Russia was open to talks with French president Emmanuel Macron and other EU leaders.
He also addressed Russia's economy, saying the country had enough confidence to "move forward" despite Western economic sanctions. Russia's GDP is expected to grow by 3.5 per cent in 2023.
Potential Olympic boycott
The conflict is also affecting sport. Putin criticised the International Olympic Committee, which he said was threatening to "bury the Olympic movement" by ordering Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under neutral flags at the 2024 Games in Paris. Russia has not yet decided whether it will boycott the event.
"If Putin wins in Ukraine, there is a real risk that his aggression will not stop"
US president Joe Biden is unable to release new funds for Ukraine due to a boycott of far-right Republicans, while in Europe, Viktor Orbán is obstructing talks on expanding support for Ukraine and potential EU accession. A crucial summit on the bloc's future started on Thursday in Brussels.
"If Putin wins in Ukraine, there is a real risk that his aggression will not stop," NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday. "Putting a stop to military support for Ukraine will only prolong the war, not end it."
© PHOTO GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / POOL / AFP