Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been largely hidden from public view since his forces were driven out of Kyiv’s approaches this month, resurfaced Tuesday to defend his “noble invasion” of Ukraine and to say that peace talks have come to a halt.
Putin spoke at a press conference held inside a hangar located at a Far Eastern Space Base six time zones away from Moscow. He stated that Moscow had “no other choice” than to intervene to help separatists defeat neo Nazis and “help people”.
He said that Russia’s economy was strong despite Western sanctions. The West had faked signs of war crimes committed by Russian troops. Talks: “We have returned to a dead-end position for us.”
After a brief appearance at a funeral for a nationalist lawmaker, it was his second public appearance within a week. He did not speak directly about the war.
When asked by space base workers if they believed that the operation in Ukraine would succeed, Putin replied: “Absolutely.” “I don’t have any doubt whatsoever.”
“Its goals have a clear and noble purpose.”
Putin often seemed to stumble or ramble in these remarks and the later news conference he held behind flags at the rear of the hangar with his wartime ally Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. Putin did not adopt the confident, icy demeanour that has become his signature in public appearances for more than 22 years as Russia’s leader.
Putin spoke out about financial sanctions, saying that “that Blitzkrieg on which our foes were counting was not working.”
Putin’s recent withdrawal was a significant change from a leader who was so prominent on Russian television during the early days.
He met with the Austrian chancellor on Monday. The meeting took place at a country residence just outside Moscow. No images were made. This contrasts with talks with Western leaders the day before the war when they were photographed seated at opposite ends at large tables in the elaborate Kremlin palace.
After failing to capture Kyiv, the West believed Russia’s tanks had pulled out of Ukraine. Many towns left behind by the Russian tanks were littered with bodies of civilians who had been killed during a campaign of torture, murder and rape.
Moscow denies that it targets civilians or commits war crimes.
Russia claims that its campaign now seeks to seize more territory for separatists in two eastern regions, the Donbas. It also includes Mariupol port which was reduced to a deserted area under Russian siege.
Ukraine claims that tens of thousands have been held captive in the city without food or water. Russia is accused of blocking aid convoys.
On Tuesday, the battle for Mariupol seemed to be entering a crucial phase with Ukrainian marines huddled in the Azovstal district. Reuters journalists who were accompanying Russian-backed separatists witnessed flames rising from the Azovstal area.
About 25% of Ukraine’s 44million population were forced from their homes after Putin sent troops across the border on February 24, and thousands more have been injured or killed since then.
Pavlo Kyrylenko (the governor of eastern Donetsk, which includes Mariupol), said that he had seen reports about possible chemical weapons use in Mariupol but couldn’t confirm these.
He told CNN that he knew that a drone dropped an unknown explosive device last night at midnight. Three people were present around Mariupol’s Mariupol metal plants, and they felt unwell.”
He said that they were taken to the hospital and that their lives weren’t in danger.
On Monday, President Volodymyr Zeleskiy stated that Russia could resort to chemical weapons while it masses troops for a new offensive. He didn’t say whether they had been used. Britain and the United States said that they were working to verify the reports.
The 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention bans chemical weapons production, stockpiling and use.
Russia’s defence ministry has yet to respond to Reuters’ request for comment. According to Interfax news agency, Russian-backed separatists in the east deny using chemical weapons at Mariupol.
The Russians gave up their attempt to seize the capital Kyiv after their troops became overwhelmed by the Ukrainian resistance. They are now doubling their efforts in the east, Donetsk included, and the neighbouring Luhansk area, where Governor Serhiy Gaidai advised residents to evacuate.
He wrote that it was far more frightening to stay and burn in your bed from a Russian shell. Evacuate because the situation is worsening every day. Get your essentials and get to the pickup point.
Zelenskiy asked for more weapons from West to end the siege at Mariupol, and prevent the anticipated eastern offensive.
He stated, “Unfortunately, we aren’t getting as much as it takes to end this war quicker…in particular to lift the blockade Mariupol.”