Nearly 10 months after the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Wednesday that the conflict “will take time” and warned of a “growing” threat of nuclear war.
Putin, speaking at a meeting of the Russian Human Rights Council in the Kremlin, said Moscow would fight back by “all available means at our disposal,” in what he insists he calls a “special military operation,” but also said he saw no need to mobilize more troops.
“In terms of the protracted nature of the special military operation and its results, of course it may take some time,” he said.
And without categorically ruling out the possibility of using the first nuclear weapon, V. Putin stated that he views Russia’s nuclear arsenal as a deterrent, not a provocation.
“As for the idea that Russia would in no way be the first to use such weapons, it means that we could not be the second, because that is a possibility in the event of an attack on our territory. would be very limited,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we have a strategy … namely, as a defense, we keep weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, all based on the so-called retaliatory strike,” he said. “That is, when we are hit, we hit back.”
The Russian leader said that many US nuclear weapons are on European soil, and Russia has not transferred its nuclear weapons to other territories and has no plans to do so, but “will protect its allies by all means. if necessary, its removal”.
“We didn’t go crazy. We know what nuclear weapons are. We have these facilities, they are more advanced and more modern than any other nuclear country, that’s obvious,” he said. “But we’re not going to fling these guns around like a razor while running around the world.”
An intercepted phone call revealed that conditions for Russian forces were deteriorating
Putin also said there was no need for additional Russian troop mobilization at this time, saying proposals for a larger deployment “simply do not make sense.”
Of the 300,000 troops called up for Russia’s partial mobilization, half are currently in Ukraine — and of those, only 77,000 are in combat units, with the rest in defense forces or training, he said.
Meanwhile, in response to a question, he described Moscow’s territorial gains as “a significant result for Russia.”
In September, Putin announced the annexation of four Ukrainian regions – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporozhye – in violation of international law.
However, Russia currently controls only 60% of the southern Kherson region. It was forced out of the regional capital city of Kherson last month in a humiliating setback, although it still controls the coast of the Sea of Azov.
“Let’s be honest, the Sea of Azov has become the internal sea of the Russian Federation. All this is a big deal,” Putin said.
Meanwhile, in Zaporozhye, the United Nations Nuclear Safety Authority has repeatedly warned of the risk of a nuclear accident at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since March.
The Zaporozhye nuclear power plant has been rocked by explosions in recent months amid fighting nearby, with Kiev and Moscow blaming each other for the attacks.
Earlier this week, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman appeared to reject International Atomic Energy Agency proposals to create a demilitarized zone around the plant, insisting it was “on Russian territory and fully under Russian control.”
Putin’s comments come as the war enters winter, with Russia continuing to shell eastern and southern Ukraine and facing attacks on its own territory.
Earlier this week, Russia launched a wave of drone and missile attacks across Ukraine targeting the country’s energy infrastructure. Since the beginning of October, Ukraine has been facing a massive attack on critical infrastructure and energy sources.
Recent strikes have caused power outages in several regions, including Kyiv and Odesa, leaving many households without electricity. Repair teams in Ukraine have been frantically working to restore power across the country, but their efforts are being hampered by sub-zero temperatures and bad weather.
Meanwhile, Russia has accused Kiev of using drones to strike military airfields far from its territory on Monday and Tuesday, in an extraordinary breach of Moscow’s presumptions that it can protect its deep interior.
Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the bombings, following Kiev’s official policy of silence on attacks in Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea.
But in an apparent allusion to the airstrikes, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky cryptically tweeted that “if something is launched into the airspace of other countries, sooner or later the unidentified flying objects will return to where they came from.”