With Russia’s military action in Ukraine in its fifth month, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Kyiv on Thursday that it must quickly accept Moscow’s terms or prepare for the worst, adding ominously that Russia has only just begun its action.
Speaking at a meeting with leaders of the Kremlin-controlled parliament, Putin accused Western allies of fueling hostilities, saying “the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian.”
“It is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems to be going in that direction,” he added.
“The whole world should know that, generally speaking, we haven’t even started anything serious,” Putin said in a threatening note.
He stated that Russia remains willing to sit down for talks to end the fighting, adding that “those who refuse to do so should know that the longer it lasts, the more difficult it will be for them to make a deal with us.”
“We are hearing that they want to defeat us on the battlefield,” Putin said. “Let them try.”
Earlier in the conflict, the Kremlin demanded that Kyiv recognize Russian sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and recognize the independence of Moscow-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. Moscow also said it expected Ukraine to bow to the situation on the ground, a reference to other land gains it has made since Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24.
After failing to capture Kyiv and other major cities in northeastern Ukraine earlier in the campaign, the Russian military shifted its focus to the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have battled Ukrainian troops since. 2014.
Earlier this week, the Russian military claimed control of Luhansk province, one of the two regions that make up Donbas, and is preparing to press its offensive into the second, Donetsk region.
In the early stages of the conflict, Russia gained control of the southern Kherson region and part of neighboring Zaporizhzhia. Moscow is expected to eventually try to cut off Ukraine from the Black Sea coast to the Romanian border. If that succeeds, it would deal a severe blow to the Ukrainian economy and also create a corridor to Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, which is home to a Russian military base.
Putin reaffirmed his long-standing claim that the West is using the conflict in Ukraine to try to isolate and weaken Russia.
“They just don’t need a country like Russia,” Putin said. “That is why they have used terrorism, separatism and internal destructive forces in our country.”
He denounced that Western sanctions against Russia have not achieved their goal of “sowing division and conflict in our society and demoralizing our people.”
“The course of history is unstoppable, and the West’s collective attempts to enforce its version of the global order are doomed to failure,” Putin said.
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