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Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

In a marathon press conference held a week after announcing his prolonged stay in the Kremlin until at least 2030, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed renewed confidence in Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

Brushing off almost two years of Western sanctions, the 71-year-old leader reaffirmed maximalist goals in Ukraine, emphasizing the need for de-nazification, de-militarization, and neutral status for the country.

Despite Kyiv’s recent struggles on the battlefield, Putin, looking relaxed, stated, “There will be peace when we achieve our goals.” He highlighted that Russian forces were improving their positions across the line of contact. The president’s appearance, broadcasted nationally, coincided with a challenging period for Ukraine, as its summer counteroffensive faltered and Western support showed signs of strain.

Putin seized the opportunity to showcase Russia’s resilience, citing that almost two years of sanctions and isolation had minimal impact on the country’s economy and morale. Addressing journalists in Moscow, he conveyed, “There is enough for us not only to feel confident but to move forward.”

As the echoes of Russia’s military operation reverberated, both sides reported clashes, with Russia claiming to down nine Ukrainian drones, and Ukraine asserting it shot down 41 of 42 Iranian-designed drones launched by Russian forces. Putin’s carefully orchestrated call-in show marked a stark contrast to its cancellation last year during early setbacks in the military operation.

Despite a key summit in Brussels where Ukraine sought EU membership, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a Putin ally, hampered progress by asserting that Ukraine had not met the “merit-based” criteria. Meanwhile, NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg warned of a real risk of Putin’s aggression expanding beyond Ukraine if Western military support for Kyiv waned.

Putin’s confidence was further bolstered by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s unsuccessful attempt in Washington to secure approval for a new $60-billion aid package, while Moscow sustained its military effort through oil sales. The Russian president’s re-election campaign, launched recently, seemed unlikely to address the economic and human costs of the ongoing offensive.

Putin acknowledged recruitment efforts into the armed forces but insisted there was currently no need for a new mobilization. Political resistance within Russia appeared stifled by a crackdown on dissent, with high-profile opposition figure Alexei Navalny serving a 19-year prison sentence on political charges.

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