By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday his nation’s “military operation” in Ukraine would continue because peace talks hit a “dead end,” and he called reported war crimes “fake.”
In his first public remarks on the conflict in more than a week, Putin warned the West that his forces would win despite retreating from northern Ukraine after being halted near Kyiv, the capital.
At a rare news briefing in spaceport Vostochny Cosmodrome 3,450 miles (5,550 kilometers) east of Moscow, Putin said Russia had to defend Russian speakers of eastern Ukraine.
Additionally, he claimed, Russia’s military must prevent its former Soviet neighbor from becoming an anti-Russian springboard for Moscow’s enemies.
He stressed that the fight was “noble.” Putin added that the recently reported discovery of dead bodies lying in the streets in the Ukrainian town of Bucha was “fake.”
The evidence gathered from local officials and scores of witnesses in Bucha showed execution-style atrocities against civilians. Still, Putin clearly denied that retreating Russian soldiers were responsible for the murders.
Putin spoke while the United States and Britain were also looking into reports that, for the first time, chemical weapons were used by Russian forces attacking Mariupol.
Ukrainian troops reported difficulties breathing in the city where authorities claim as many as tens of thousands of people have died in weeks of relentless Russian shelling.
The West views the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an imperial-style land grab targeting a sovereign country.
Ukraine says it is fighting for its survival after Putin annexed the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and, on February 21 recognized the independence of two rebel regions.
However, Putin dismissed the accusations during Monday’s news conference, calling the fight “noble.”
He also said the West’s sanctions over the Russian invasion, which tipped Russia towards its worst recession since the years following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, have failed. Western companies also left the country, including Nokia, whose telecommunications equipment plays a vital role in providing internet and communications in Russia. Nokia said Tuesday that it was exiting the country because of the invasion of Ukraine.
However, discussing sanctions against his nation, Putin stressed that the “Blitzkrieg on which our foes were counting did not work.”The war leader added defiantly: “The United States is ready to fight with Russia until the last Ukrainian – that is the way it is.”
Putin’s comments referred to signs that Ukraine and Russia are building up their military forces in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas as Moscow switches the focus of its offensive.
The well-informed British Defense Ministry said clashes in eastern Ukraine “will intensify over the next two to three weeks.” Putin claimed Ukrainian-Russian peace talks aimed at preventing such fighting failed as “We have again returned to a dead-end situation for us.”
However, Putin, Russia’s leader since 1999, said he “doesn’t have any doubt at all” his country would “rhythmically and calmly” continue its “operation.”
He stressed the most critical strategic conclusion was that the unipolar international order that the United States had built after the Cold War was breaking up.
One of his few remaining allies, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, was with Putin as he promised to work more closely with Belarus on space infrastructure and technology.
Putin’s comments appeared directed towards a domestic audience after being reportedly interrupted during an appearance in front of a massive Moscow stadium crowd last month.
The Kremlin blamed a technical glitch for the interrupted transmission of Putin’s speech to mark the eighth anniversary of Crimea’s annexation.
As fighting continued Tuesday, the United Nations said some 4.8 million of Ukraine’s 7.5 million children had been displaced since the outbreak of the war on February 24. One mother even scrawled her contact details on her 2-year-old daughter’s back as they fled Kyiv, fearing Europe’s worst conflict since World War Two would separate them.
More than 4,000 people fled from areas of intense clashes through humanitarian corridors on Monday, authorities said. The news came as New Zealand said it would send more than 50 soldiers to Europe to help distribute aid to Ukraine.
Yet not all Western support has been welcomed by Ukraine. Kyiv on Monday rejected a planned visit from Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. It was a snub in response to his longtime ties to high-level Moscow officials and natural gas projects.
Steinmeier was due to participate in a visit to Kyiv this week alongside his Polish and Baltic counterparts.
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