President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday peace talks with Ukraine had hit a dead end, using his first public comments on the conflict in more than a week to vow his troops would win and to goad the West for failing to bring Moscow to heel.
Addressing the war in public for the first time since Russian forces retreated from northern Ukraine after they were halted at the gates of Kyiv, Putin promised that Russia would achieve all of its “noble” aims in Ukraine.
In the strongest signal to date that the war will grind on for longer, Putin said Kyiv had derailed peace talks by staging what he said were fake claims of Russian war crimes and by demanding security guarantees to cover the whole of Ukraine.
“We have again returned to a dead-end situation for us,” Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since 1999, told a news briefing during a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome 3,450 miles (5,550 km) east of Moscow.
Asked by Russian space agency workers if the operation in Ukraine would achieve its goals, Putin said: “Absolutely. I don’t have any doubt at all.”
Russia will “rhythmically and calmly” continue its operation but the most important strategic conclusion was that the unipolar international order which the United States had built after the Cold War was breaking up, Putin said.
Putin said Russia had no choice but to fight because it had to defend the Russian speakers of eastern Ukraine and prevent its former Soviet neighbour from becoming an anti-Russian springboard for Moscow’s enemies.
The West has condemned the war as a brutal imperial-style land grab targeting a sovereign country. Ukraine says it is fighting for its survival after Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 and on Feb. 21 recognised two of its rebel regions as sovereign.
Putin dismissed the West’s sanctions, which have tipped Russia towards its worst recession since the years following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, as a failure.
“That Blitzkrieg on which our foes were counting did not work,” Putin said. “The United States is ready to fight with Russia until the last Ukrainian – that is the way it is.”
Putin, who had been ubiquitous on Russian television in the early days of the war, had largely retreated from public view since Russia’s withdrawal from northern Ukraine two weeks ago.
His only public appearance in the past week was at the funeral of a nationalist lawmaker, where he did not directly address the war. On Monday he met the visiting chancellor of Austria at a country residence outside Moscow but no images of that meeting were released.