Russian President Vladimir Putin will deliver his annual State of the Nation Address at the Gostiny Dvor Conference Center in central Moscow on February 21, 2023.
Mikhail Metzel | Afp | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, he used a highly anticipated speech to deny responsibility for the war in Ukraine and lash out at his opponents.
His comments come despite repeated rejection of Putin’s war narrative by Western states and Ukraine.
February 24 will mark a year since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and launched a ground war in Europe that Putin still refers to as a “special military operation.” Intensive the fight continues across a war-torn nation with a death toll said to be in the tens of thousands.
In a more than hour-long speech, Putin tried to justify Russia’s invasion by claiming it sought to allow citizens to enter the disputed Donbass speak their “own language” and sought a peaceful solution.
He also cited NATO expansion and new European missile defense systems as a provocation by Russia, saying the West’s goal was “infinite power.”
The US administration formally concluded on Saturday that Moscow had committed “crimes against humanity” during its year-long invasion of its neighbor. Political scientists say that Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was the biggest mistake of his political career and weakened Russia for years to come.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after a rigged referendum. The invasion was widely condemned by the international community and resulted in rounds of Western sanctions against Russian officials. It also annexed four Ukrainian regions last year (Donetsk and Luhansk, which cover the Donbas region, Kherson and Zaporozhye), which Ukraine and its allies have also condemned as illegal and illegitimate.
Putin discussed Donbass on Tuesday, saying the Kremlin had seen growing threats in the contested region ahead of the February 24 invasion.
“We had no doubt that by February 2022 everything was ready for a repressive action in Donbas, where [the] The Kyiv regime provided artillery and aviation and other weapons to attack Donbas in 2014. In 2015, they again tried to directly attack Donbas, continued shelling, terror,” he said, according to a Sky News translation.
“All this was completely against the documents that were adopted by the UN Security Council. I would like to repeat: they started the war. And we used force to stop it.”
Putin’s “state of the nation” address on Tuesday was delivered to lawmakers and military officials in Moscow and was also broadcast on state television.
Russia wanted to create a highway to Crimea, Putin said, and enact a program of “social reconstruction” in the territories it claims control over.
However, Ukrainian officials are defiant, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeatedly insisting that the country will not give up anything short of restoring the country’s pre-invasion borders.
“Putin is at it again with his usual complaints,” said former Ukrainian ambassador to Austria Olexander Scherba. he said on Twitter. “The biggest one: The West and Ukraine were ready for war [Russia]. As if there were none [Russia] ultimatum. As if [French President Emmanuel] Macron, [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz & Co didn’t spend 2021 traveling to Moscow begging [Russia] don’t do it.”
US President Joe Biden surprised visit on Monday to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Biden said the trip was to “reaffirm our steadfast and unwavering commitment to the democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” He also promised to supply more artillery ammunition and anti-armor systems and announce new sanctions against Russian companies and their elites.
Biden is also scheduled to give a speech in Poland on Tuesday, where he will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda.