Putin: Sending Troops to Ukraine Risky 02/29 06:09
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to fulfill
Moscow's goals in Ukraine and sternly warned the West against deeper
involvement in the fighting, saying that such a move is fraught with the risk
of a global nuclear conflict.
Putin's warning came in a state-of-the-nation address ahead of next month's
election he's all but certain to win, underlining his readiness to protect
Russian gains in Ukraine.
In an apparent reference to French President Emmanuel Macron's statement
earlier this week that the future deployment of Western ground troops to
Ukraine should not be "ruled out", Putin warned that it would lead to "tragic"
consequences for the countries who decide to do that.
Putin noted that while accusing Russia of plans tp attack NATO allies in
Europe, Western allies were "selecting targets for striking our territory and
selecting the most efficient as they think striking assets and talking about
the possibility of sending a NATO contingent to Ukraine."
"We remember the fate of those who sent their troop contingents to the
territory of our country," the Russian leader said. "Now the consequences for
the potential invaders will be far more tragic."
Speaking before an audience of lawmakers and top officials, Putin said the
West should keep in mind that "we also have the weapons that can strike targets
on their territory, and what they are now suggesting and scaring the world
with, all that raises the real threat of a nuclear conflict that will mean the
destruction of our civilization."
"Don't they understand it?" he said, alleging that Western leaders are
playing with options of deeper involvement in the conflict, as in a simulation.
"Those people haven't been through any tough challenges and they have forgotten
what war means."
The strong statement followed earlier warnings from Putin, who has issued
frequent reminders of Russia's nuclear might since he sent troops into Ukraine
in February 2022 as he sought to discourage the West from expanding its
military support for Kyiv.
Putin emphasized that Russia's nuclear forces are in "full readiness,"
saying that the military has deployed potent new weapons, some of them tested
on the battlefield in Ukraine.
The Kremlin leader said they include the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental
ballistic missile that has entered service with Russian nuclear forces, along
with the Burevestnik atomic-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon
atomic-powered, nuclear-armed drone, which are completing their tests.
He added that the Kinzhal and Zircon hypersonic missiles have proven their
efficacy on the battlefield in Ukraine.
At the same time, he rejected Western leaders' statements about the threat
of a Russian attack on NATO allies in Europe as "ravings" and again dismissed
Washington's claim that Moscow was pondering the deployment of space-based
Putin charged that the U.S. allegations were part of a ploy to draw Russia
into talks on nuclear arms control on American terms even as Washington
continues its efforts to deliver a "strategic defeat" to Moscow in Ukraine.
"Ahead of the U.S. election, they just want to show their citizens, as well
as others, that they continue to rule the world," he said. "It won't work."
In his speech that focused heavily on economic and social issues ahead of
the March 15-17 presidential vote, Putin argued that Russia was "defending its
sovereignty and security and protecting our compatriots" in Ukraine, charging
that the Russian forces have the upper hand in the fighting.
He hailed Russian soldiers and honored those who were killed in fighting
with a moment of silence.
Putin has repeatedly said that he sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022
to protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a major security
threat to Russia by joining NATO. Kyiv and its allies have denounced it as an
unprovoked act of aggression.
The Russian leader has repeatedly signaled a desire to negotiate an end to
the fighting but warned that Russia will hold onto its gains.
Putin, 71, who is running as an independent candidate in the March 15-17
presidential election, relies on the tight control over Russia's political
system that he has established during 24 years in power.
Prominent critics who could challenge him have either been imprisoned or are
living abroad, while most independent media have been banned, meaning that
Putin's reelection is all but assured. He faces token opposition from three
other candidates nominated by Kremlin-friendly parties represented in
Russia's best-known opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose attempt to run
against Putin in 2018 was rejected, died suddenly in an Arctic prison colony
earlier this month, while serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges.
Navalny's funeral is set for Friday.