By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow and its military is committed to the goal of the “liberation” of Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbas region, and there is no going back despite fierce resistance being put in place by Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters on Friday after attending a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan, Putin said “We aren’t in a rush,” adding that Russia has only deployed volunteer soldiers to fight in Ukraine.
Following a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive last week, Russia was forced to pull back its forces from large swaths of northeastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s move to reclaim control of several Russian-occupied cities and villages marked the largest military setback for Moscow since its forces had to retreat from areas near the capital early in the war.
Asked about the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Putin replied: “Let’s see how it develops and how it ends.”
He noted that Ukraine has tried to strike civilian infrastructure in Russia and “we so far have responded with restraint, but just yet.”
“If the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious,” Putin said.
“Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said in an apparent reference to Russian attacks earlier this week on power plants in northern Ukraine and a dam in the south. ”Let’s consider those as warning strikes.”
He alleged that Ukraine has attempted to launch attacks “near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants,” adding that “we will retaliate if they fail to understand that such methods are unacceptable.”
Putin also sought Friday to assuage India’s concern about the conflict in Ukraine, telling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Moscow wants to see a quick end to the fighting and alleging that Ukrainian officials won’t negotiate.
“I know your stand on the conflict in Ukraine and the concerns that you have repeatedly voiced,” the Russian leader told Modi. “We will do all we can to end that as quickly as possible. Regrettably, the other side, the leadership of Ukraine, has rejected the negotiations process and stated that it wants to achieve its goals by military means, on the battlefield.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says it’s Russia that allegedly doesn’t want to negotiate in earnest. He also has insisted on the withdrawal of Russian troops from occupied areas of Ukraine as a precondition for talks.
Putin’s remarks during the talks with Modi echoed comments the Russian leader made during Thursday’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping when Putin thanked him for his government’s “balanced position” on the Ukraine war, while adding that he was ready to discuss China’s unspecified “concerns” about Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Putin said he and Xi “discussed what we should do in the current conditions to efficiently counter unlawful restrictions” imposed by the West. The European Union, the United States and other Western nations have put sanctions on Russian energy due to the war in Ukraine.