Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday made a number of important statements about the progress of the “special military operation” in Ukraine and the situation in Russia. Among other things, the head of state told why the Russian armed forces were not limited to Donbass, after which he ordered the transfer of strategic nuclear forces to a special regime, what would happen if the Ukrainian authorities did not agree with the current demands of Russia, and what was the likelihood of martial law being introduced in the country.
On Saturday, Vladimir Putin visited the aviation training center of PJSC Aeroflot, where he met with representatives of the flight crew of Russian airlines. For the first time in a long time, the Russian president was shown sitting surrounded by the participants of the event, and not at a considerable distance from them.
One of the girls asked Vladimir Putin if a “special military operation” in Ukraine could have been avoided.
Vladimir Putin called the decision to launch a “special operation” difficult.
According to him, Moscow tried to do everything so that the events in Ukraine developed in line with the Minsk agreements, but Kyiv was not going to fulfill them. “From 13 to 14 thousand people were killed during this time, over the years (since 2014— “b”)! More than 500 children have been killed or maimed,” the head of state said, reproaching the “civilized West” for ignoring these figures there.
In July 2021, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated the number of deaths during the armed conflict in Donbass on both sides at 13.2-13.4 thousand people. Among the dead – 4 thousand civilians. At the same time, the department noted that if in 2014 civilians accounted for a third of all the dead, in recent years they have been 4-5%.
Vladimir Putin was also asked about the likelihood of martial law being introduced in Russia. “Martial law is introduced in the country in accordance with the law by presidential decree, and it must be confirmed by the decision of the Federation Council in the event of external aggression, including in specific areas of hostilities. But we don’t have such a situation, and I hope there won’t be,” Vladimir Putin replied.
A special provision, he said, is also introduced by presidential decree and by decision of the Federation Council in the event of large-scale internal threats. In turn, the state of emergency, as a rule, is introduced in the regions or throughout the country in case of man-made disasters and natural disasters. “Thank God, there is no such thing either,” the president said.
The head of state also promised that they would not send conscripts and reservists to Ukraine. “Only professional military officers and contractors take part in this operation. There are no conscripts, and we do not plan to do this, and we are not going to,” he stressed. “Neither conscripts, nor those who are called up for training, we do not use anyone and are not going to use anyone in this military operation.” According to the president, the Russian army “will solve all the tasks facing it.” “I don’t doubt it for a second, the whole course of the operation speaks of this – it is going according to plan, according to the schedule, everything is going as planned by the General Staff,” Vladimir Putin said.
Then, for the first time, he told what scenarios the Russian authorities considered before the start of hostilities in Ukraine. “It would be possible to act in different ways… it was possible to help the Donbass republics right on the line of contact, at the front, as they say, and to reinforce them with our Russian army,” Vladimir Putin specified. Given the reckless support from the West, nationalists and radicals, there would be endless support from that side with material resources, ammunition, equipment, and so on.
Therefore, the General Staff and the Ministry of Defense, in his words, “choose a different path.” “The first thing they did was to destroy the entire military infrastructure, not all, but partially, mainly – warehouses with weapons, ammunition, aviation, air defense systems,” the head of state said. He added that removing the air defense system “requires some time” because “they need to be opened and then hit.” And he said: “Practically this work is completed.”
Separately, Vladimir Putin touched upon the demand of the Ukrainian authorities addressed to NATO to create a no-fly zone over their country. “Now we hear that it is necessary to make a no-fly zone over the territory of Ukraine. It is impossible to do this on the territory of Ukraine itself, it is possible only on the territory of some neighboring states. But any movement in this direction will be considered by us as participation in the armed conflict of the country from whose territory threats to our servicemen will be created, ”the president warned. And then he emphasized once again: “We will immediately consider them as participants in military conflicts, and it doesn’t matter what organizations (that is, NATO.— “b”) they are.
Recall that on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized NATO member countries for their unwillingness to introduce a no-fly zone over his country. “Today was a NATO summit, a weak summit, a confused summit. The summit, which shows that not everyone considers the fight for freedom for Europe to be the number one goal … NATO deliberately decided not to close the sky over Ukraine, ”he complained. According to Mr. Zelensky, “the NATO countries themselves have created a narrative that supposedly closing the sky over Ukraine will provoke direct aggression” by Russia against them.
Meanwhile, it follows from Vladimir Putin’s commentary that the fears of the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance are not unfounded. “The implementation of this requirement (on the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.— “b”) is associated with colossal and catastrophic consequences not only for Europe, but for the whole world,” he warned. According to Mr. Putin, the partners still have an understanding of what the actions of the NATO countries against Russia “may be fraught with and what it threatens for everyone, despite their reckless statements.”
“This is how it was done by the British Foreign Secretary (Liz Truss.— “b”), when she blurted out that NATO could be involved in the conflict,” continued the President of the Russian Federation. “We had to immediately decide to bring our forces into a special regime.”
Note that Liz Truss, in an interview with Sky News, really made it clear that NATO could be involved in a conflict with Russia, but only if it does not stop in Ukraine. “We are fighting not only for the sake of Ukrainians, for their sovereignty and the right to self-determination, this long conflict is about freedom and democracy in Europe. If we do not stop Putin in Ukraine, others will be threatened: the Baltic countries, Poland, Moldova. And this may result in a conflict with NATO, and we do not want this,” she said.
The order to transfer the deterrence forces, that is, the strategic nuclear forces, “to a special mode of combat duty,” Vladimir Putin gave the military last Sunday. He justified his decision by the “unfriendly actions” of Western countries in the economic sphere, as well as their “aggressive” rhetoric against Russia. The White House said on this occasion that Vladimir Putin is responding to “non-existent threats in order to justify further aggression.” And the UN secretariat warned that Russia’s actions “increase the risk of catastrophic miscalculation.”
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin once again touched upon the prospects for the emergence of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. “Now (in Ukraine.— “b”) started talking about acquiring nuclear weapons. We can’t get past these things!” the head of state said. He recalled that Ukraine has had relevant competencies since the times of the Soviet Union. “They will increase (their— “b”) and will do (nuclear weapons in Ukraine.— “b”), and from across the ocean they will also help. And then they will say that we do not recognize the nuclear status, they will put these complexes under control,” Vladimir Putin admitted. “And from this second, from this very second, the fate of Russia will be completely different. Because then our strategic adversaries will not even need to have ballistic intercontinental missiles. Right here they will keep us at gunpoint with a nuclear weapon, and that’s it. How can we get past all this?” According to him, “these are absolutely real threats, not some nonsense far-fetched.”
It should be noted that Ukrainian officials have not directly stated their intention to create nuclear weapons either now or earlier. Rather, they expressed regret that Ukraine abandoned it in exchange for security guarantees under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. On February 20, Volodymyr Zelensky, during his speech at the Munich Security Conference, admitted that Kyiv would abandon this document. However, Kyiv was later assured that this did not mean that Ukraine would seek to create a nuclear bomb.
Experts, meanwhile, say that Ukrainian capabilities in the field of creating nuclear weapons have been significantly reduced since the collapse of the USSR, and today Ukraine is unable to create it on its own. They also point out that the loss of nuclear-free status would damage Ukraine’s relations with Western countries and effectively leave the country in international isolation.
Vladimir Putin also spoke a lot about the measures that the Russian authorities intend to take to support the economy against the backdrop of unprecedented Western sanctions imposed after the start of the Russian “special operation”. According to him, the way out of the current situation could be maximum economic freedom for people who do business. A number of decisions have already been made, the government is working on expanding support measures, the president noted.