Putin claims Russia’s military has the momentum in Ukraine and is poised to meet Moscow’s goals

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces — First Deputy Defense Minister Valery Gerasimov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, tours an exhibition of cutting-edge pieces of armament following an expanded meeting of the Defense Ministry Board at the National Defense Control Centre in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 19. Reuters-Yonhap

Russian President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces — First Deputy Defense Minister Valery Gerasimov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, tours an exhibition of cutting-edge pieces of armament following an expanded meeting of the Defense Ministry Board at the National Defense Control Centre in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 19. Reuters-Yonhap

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Tuesday that his country’s military has seized the initiative in Ukraine after repelling a monthslong counteroffensive and is well positioned to achieve Moscow’s goals.

Putin spoke at a meeting with top military brass a day after he presented documents to Russia’s Central Election Commission to seek reelection in the March presidential vote that he’s all but certain to win.

“Our troops are holding the initiative,” the Russian leader said. “We are effectively doing what we think is needed, doing what we want. Where our commanders consider it necessary to stick to active defenses they are doing so, and we are improving our positions where it’s needed.”

The Russian leader praised Russia’s troops for beating back Ukrainian attacks during the counteroffensive that started in June.

“The enemy has suffered heavy casualties and to a large extent wasted its reserves while trying to show at least some results of its so-called counteroffensive to its masters,” Putin said, adding that ”the myth about invulnerability of Western weapons also has collapsed.”

“All attempts by the West to deliver us a military defeat, a strategic defeat, were shattered by the courage and fortitude of our soldiers, the growing might of our armed forces and the potential of our military industries,” Putin said.

In this pool photograph distributed by Russia's state agency Sputnik, Russian President Vladimir Putin observes a minute of silence in tribute to fallen servicemen during an expanded meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry Board at the National Defence Control Centre in Moscow, Dec. 19. AFP-Yonhap

In this pool photograph distributed by Russia’s state agency Sputnik, Russian President Vladimir Putin observes a minute of silence in tribute to fallen servicemen during an expanded meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry Board at the National Defence Control Centre in Moscow, Dec. 19. AFP-Yonhap

During the counteroffensive that began in early June, Ukrainian forces have failed to make any significant gains as they faced multiecheloned Russian defensive lines, including sprawling minefields.

Speaking at the same meeting, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the Russian minefields spread for 7,000 kilometers (more than 4,300 miles).

Shoigu said that 650,000 Russian soldiers have received combat experience in Ukraine, turning the Russian army into “the best prepared and capable army in the world, armed with advanced weapons that have been tested in combat.”

“Despite the sanctions, we produce more high-tech weapons than NATO countries,” Shoigu said.

He declared that the Russian arms industries have increased the output of tanks by 5.6 times, the number of drones built by 16.8 times and bolstered the production of artillery munitions by 17.5 times since the start of what the Kremlin calls “the special military operation” in Ukraine.

Shoigu said the military has received more than 1,500 new and modernized tanks, more than 2,500 armored infantry vehicles and 237 new planes and helicopters.

The minister said Russia’s armed forces were finalizing preparations for putting the Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile on combat duty and also building the infrastructure for the deployment of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon atomic-powered, nuclear-armed underwater drone.

Shoigu charged that military personnel from NATO countries operate Ukraine’s air defense systems, multiple rocket launchers and tactical missile systems and also help plan military operations and train troops. He didn’t provide specifics to support his claim.

While hailing the military’s performance, Putin noted the need to improve military communications, streamline the use of intelligence and counterartillery means, and increase supplies of precision munitions and drones. He added that Russia also needs to expand the capability of its satellite assets.

Putin particularly emphasized the importance of bolstering the country’s nuclear forces, saying that their role has increased amid “the changing character of military threats and the emergence of new military-political risks.”

Putin reaffirmed his long-held argument that he sent Russian troops into Ukraine to counter security threats to Russia posed by Western plans to incorporate the country in NATO. Ukraine and its Western allies have denounced the move by Moscow as an unprovoked act of aggression.

“The West isn’t abandoning its strategy of containment of Russia and its aggressive goals in Ukraine,” Putin said. “Well, we also aren’t going to abandon the goals of the special military operation.”

He declared that Russia is open for talks to end the conflict but warned that “we won’t give up what is ours.”

“If they want to talk, let them enter the talks,”Putin said. “But we will proceed from our interests.” (AP)

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