Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to provide Moscow’s military with everything required to ensure victory in the Ukraine war, with no limit on the budgetary requirements for the Kremlin’s coffers, while also announcing the Russian Navy will be equipped with a new hypersonic missile in early January. “I don’t have any doubt that all the goals set will be achieved,” Putin said during a meeting with senior Defense Ministry officials on Wednesday.
Putin also insisted on the need to strengthen Moscow’s nuclear capabilities, comprised of strategic bombers, inter-continental missiles and nuclear-armed submarines, while Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the Russian armed forces would be increased from one million personnel to 1.5m and include a minimum of 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers. Moscow ordered a partial mobilization last September to provide 300,000 reservists and draftees for the invasion of Ukraine, half of whom were deployed to the front lines while the remainder underwent training before deployment.
Shoigu also declared plans to form new military units in western Russia to counterbalance plans by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.
Describing the Ukraine war as a “tragedy,” Putin revisited his rhetoric accusing the Western powers and NATO of causing the conflict. “We always considered the Ukrainian people as brotherly, and I still think so,” the Russian leader said. “What’s going on is certainly a tragedy, but it’s not a result of our policy. For centuries, our strategic adversaries have been setting the goal to disintegrate and weaken our country, viewing it as too big and posing a potential threat.”
When Putin sent his troops into Ukraine in February, he said the action was aimed at the “demilitarization” of Ukraine and preventing the country from joining NATO and becoming an anti-Russian bulwark.
He also has claimed the attack was aimed at “denazifying” Ukraine to free it from the purported influence of radical nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, allegations that Ukraine and its allies have dismissed.
Since an unsuccessful Russian attempt to take Kyiv in the early days of the invasion, Ukraine’s forces have been pushing Moscow’s troops back on several fronts, retaking the key strategic city of Kherson in early November. A second counter-offensive launched in September on the eastern Kharkiv front led to a general Russian retreat and the recapture of Lyman in October.
However, Putin vowed on Wednesday that what he has termed a “special military operation” in Ukraine would continue until its objectives are met.
US to deliver Patriot missile systems to Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is due to meet US President Joe Biden on Wednesday on his first overseas trip since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24. Zelenskiy is due to address Congress during his visit, where a vote is pending on a year-end spending package that includes some $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine. Washington is also preparing to provide Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to aid Ukraine’s defense.
More sophisticated weapons systems to combat Moscow’s aerial onslaught on civilian targets in Ukraine has been one of Zelenskiy’s primary request from the Western allies, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has warned that further US arms provisions to Kyiv will “aggravate” the conflict. “This does not bode well at all for Ukraine,” Peskov said Wednesday.
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