Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday vowed to continue the invasion of Ukraine despite widespread condemnation from the West — as he defended air strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, arguing that Kiev “started it first”.
“There is a lot of noise, chatter and outcry throughout the universe,” Putin said. “It will not prevent us from completing combat tasks.”
He described a series of Russian airstrikes on Ukraine’s power plants and other key infrastructure as legitimate retaliation for an Oct. 8 truck bombing of a key bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Russia and other attacks the Kremlin claimed were happening to Ukraine .
Putin also cited Ukraine’s move to cut off water supplies to Russian-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine.
“There is now a lot of noise about our strikes against energy infrastructure,” Putin said during a ceremony in the Kremlin where soldiers were presented with Gold Star medals. “Yes we’ll do that. But who started it? Who hit the Crimean bridge? Who blew up power lines connected to the Kursk nuclear power plant?”
The Kerch Strait Bridge was Putin’s $5 billion pet project that became a key supply route for Moscow forces fighting in Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials, while reluctant to publicly claim credit for the attacks, welcomed their findings and hinted at Kiev’s involvement.
Repeated air strikes on Ukraine’s electricity, water and gas supplies have left millions of people across the country huddled in the dark without warmth as temperatures plummeted below freezing.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday it was up to Kiev to end the bloodshed by accepting Moscow’s terms of surrender.
“(Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy knows when it will end,” Peskov told reporters. “It can end tomorrow if he wishes.”
The Kremlin has long said Ukraine must accept Russian terms to end the conflict, now in its tenth month. It has demanded that Kiev recognize Crimea – a Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow illegally annexed in 2014 – as part of Russia and also accept Moscow’s other land gains in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly rejected these terms, saying the war will not end until the occupied territories are liberated or Russian forces leave them.
In a rare acknowledgment that it is taking longer than expected to achieve his goals in the conflict, Putin admitted on Wednesday that fighting in Ukraine “could be a drawn-out process”.
He described Moscow’s land gains as “a significant result for Russia,” saying, for example, that the Sea of Azov “has become Russia’s inland sea.”
During a conference call with reporters, Peskov said Moscow is not aiming to seize new land, but will try to regain control of areas in Ukraine it withdrew from just weeks after being incorporated into Russia in mock referendums.
After earlier withdrawals from the Kiev and Kharkiv areas, Russian troops last month left the city of Kherson and parts of the Kherson region, one of four illegally annexed Ukrainian regions.
“There are occupied territories in several new regions of the Russian Federation that need to be liberated,” Peskov said.
Heavy fighting continued Thursday, particularly in regions annexed by Russia. Zelenskyy’s office said eleven civilians were killed and 17 injured in Ukraine on Wednesday.
The Donetsk region has been the epicenter of recent fighting. Russian artillery hit the town of Yampil, northeast of Sloviansk, while humanitarian aid was being distributed to civilians, Ukrainian officials said.
With mail wires
https://nypost.com/2022/12/08/putin-vows-to-persist-with-ukraine-war-defends-airstrikes/ Putin vows to uphold war in Ukraine, defends airstrikes