President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russia’s goal is to end the conflict in Ukraine, which he referred to as a “war” for the first time since the February invasion.
Putin made the unprecedented comments to Kremlin pool reporters a day after President Biden hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and promised him continued and unwavering support.
“Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war,” Putin said. “We will strive for an end to this, and the sooner the better, of course.”
Putin’s use of the term “war” caused a stir among his critics in Russia, where there is a law on the books — signed by the president himself in March — which prohibits citizens from describing the “special military operation” in Ukraine as a “war” on pain of heavy fines and jail time.
Nikita Yuferev, an opposition councilor from St. Petersburg, has asked prosecutors to investigate Putin for breaking his own law against spreading “deliberately false” information about the armed forces.
Yuferev said he knew his legal challenge would go nowhere, but he had filed it to expose the “mendacity” of the system.
“It’s important for me to do this to draw attention to the contradiction and the injustice of these laws that he [Putin] adopts and signs but which he himself doesn’t observe,” he told Reuters.
“I think the more we talk about this, the more people will doubt his honesty, his infallibility, and the less support he will have,” the councilor added.
In his challenge, filed in an open letter, Yuferev asked the prosecutor general and interior minister to “hold (Putin) responsible under the law for spreading fake news about the actions of the Russian army.”
Meanwhile, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Putin has “shown absolutely zero indication that he’s willing to negotiate” an end to the war, which will mark its 10-month anniversary on Christmas Eve.
“Quite the contrary,” Kirby told reporters. “Everything (Putin) is doing on the ground and in the air bespeaks a man who wants to continue to visit violence upon the Ukrainian people” and “escalate the war.”
On Wednesday, Putin and Russia’s top military brass discussed expanding the armed forces 30% and beefing up the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Kirby reiterated that Biden was open to talks with Putin, but only after the Russian leader “showed a seriousness about negotiations” and after consultations with Ukraine and America’s allies.
Russia has persistently said it is open to negotiations, but Ukraine suspects such talks would only be a ploy to buy time after a series of Russian defeats and retreats.
“All armed conflicts end one way or another with some kind of negotiations on the diplomatic track,” Putin said. “Sooner or later, any parties in a state of conflict sit down and make an agreement. The sooner this realization comes to those who oppose us, the better. We have never given up on this.”
Russia says it is Ukraine that is refusing to talk. Kyiv says Russia must halt its attacks and give up all territory it has seized.
Putin’s remarks came on the heels of Zelensky’s surprise visit to Washington, DC — his first overseas trip since the start of the war.
Following Zelensky’s well-received address to the US Congress, Senate lawmakers voted to approve a massive $1.7 trillion year-end spending bill that included close to $45 billion in aid to Ukraine. The House was expected to follow suit later Friday, with Biden signing it into law early next week.
Separately, the White House announced it would provide an additional $1.85 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, including a Patriot missile battery.
Putin played down the significance of the Patriot air defense system, saying Russia would find a way to counter it.
He said it was “quite old” and did not work like Russia’s S-300 system.
“An antidote will always be found,” he said, boasting Russia would “crack” the Patriots. “So those who do it are doing it in vain. It’s just prolonging the conflict, that’s all.”
With Post wires
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