Putin challenges the West to fight Russia on the battlefield: Let them try

More than four months after the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin bragged on Thursday that the conflict had only just begun. He challenged Western countries that support Ukraine to “try” to fight Russia on the battlefield.

In televised remarks to parliament leaders, Putin dismissed the idea that Russia had let the invasion drag on for too long, saying it had “not really started anything yet”. He said negotiating peace was getting more difficult, then focused his anger on Western countries that had imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia while providing support and resources to Ukraine.

“We hear today that they want us to be defeated on the battlefield,” Putin said, according to state media. RIA Novosti. “Well what can I say? Let them try.”

He added: “We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the end of Ukraine. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but everything seems to be heading towards this.”

The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, which is now almost entirely under Russian control, said on Friday that the city of Severodonetsk facing a “humanitarian catastrophe”. Vital infrastructure, including the sewage system, has been badly damaged by months of fighting, and “there is no central water, gas or electricity supply,” he said, adding that 80 percent of homes in the city were damaged.

Severodonetsk faces a “humanitarian catastrophe”; UN warns of ‘starvation catastrophe’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed Thursday that he is not considering ceding territory in a possible peace deal with Russia. Ukraine’s fierce resistance to Russia encouraged Zelensky, who has since repeatedly underestimated the idea of ​​allowing Moscow to redraw its borders and annex the territories it captured during the fighting.

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“Ukrainians are not ready to give up their lands as new territories in the Russian Federation,” Zelensky told CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, shaking his head as he spoke. “This is our land. We have always said this, and we will never give up on it.”

Zelensky’s adviser, Mikhailo Podolyak, recently listed Ukraine’s conditions for peace with Russia, including a ceasefire, the return of kidnapped citizens, and the withdrawal of Russian troops from all over the country.

Despite Putin’s bravado, the Russian military faces significant long-term challenges. International sanctions harm Moscow The ability to replenish its arsenal, forcing Russia to switch to a second-hand economy that relies on poor alternatives. Russia is increasingly determined to make its own goods and components – even if it means a return to the import-substitution policies that resulted in a massive, albeit globally uncompetitive, industrial complex before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Russians face the prospect of a Soviet-style shortage with the sting of sanctions

The Kremlin is also They scramble to find experienced fighters After losing many troops earlier in the invasion. The Kremlin has so far refused to order a general mobilization of soldiers of conscription age, saying such a move could indicate that the war is not progressing as depicted by the Russian media. Instead, the Army embarked on a campaign to expand the ranks of active soldiers who voluntarily signed contracts by calling qualified men and trying to reactivate reservists.

The Russian army ramps up recruitment while its heavy losses weaken

Although the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that forces fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas region would temporarily halt military operations to “renew their combat capabilities,” a barrage of Russian missiles fell on cities and villages across Ukraine, killing many civilians and wounding many. . According to local leaders.

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Despite the appearance that the invasion was not going as smoothly for Russia as its leaders intended, Putin suggested that the invading forces still had more to unleash Ukraine.

“Everyone should know that we haven’t started anything in earnest yet,” Putin told parliament leaders. “The course of history is unstoppable, and the West’s collective attempts to impose its version of the world order are doomed to fail.”

Speaking about whether peace is still possible, he said it is not impossible – but he issued a warning to Western countries.

“We do not refuse to negotiate peace, but those who refuse should know that the more they refuse, the more difficult it will be to negotiate,” Putin said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov echoed Putin’s sentiments on Friday, saying the Russian president had “worked on the statements that Western countries hear” regarding how the Russian invasion would be.

“Putin simply stated that … Russia’s potential in this regard is so great that only a small part of it is now engaged in a special military operation,” Peskov said. Russian state media. Thus, all these statements by Westerners are literally ridiculous. They are absurd and simply add to the grief of the Ukrainian people.”

Reese Thibault, Mary Elyochina and Anthony Viola contributed to this report.

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