Russian President Vladimir Putin ditched his euphemistic phrasing for the conflict in Ukraine, calling it a “war” for the first time Thursday, as the Kremlin hailed Russia’s progress in achieving the “demilitarization” of Ukraine, according to media reports.
Aims of Putin’s “special military operation” have included “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, neutralizing its defense capabilities and liberating Russian-speaking breakaway regions, as well as thwarting any of the Western defense alliance’s goals to cripple Russia, according to The Washington Post. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed the operation was seeing advances in rendering Ukraine militarily impotent Friday, CNN reported.
“Our goal is not to spin this flywheel of a military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war,” Putin said during a televised news conference on Thursday, according to the Post. “This is what we are striving for.” (RELATED: Russia Accuses US Of ‘Direct’ Involvement In War As Pentagon Ramps Up Training For Ukrainian Troops)
Characterizing the conflict as a military operation appeared intended to assure the Russian people it would remain limited in scope and not incur significant damages, according to the Post. Authorities have fined and at times arrested commentators and anti-war activists who use the word “war” to describe the operation for violating laws against spreading false information.
However, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans on Dec. 21 to beef up the size of Russia’s military by 30% to 1.5 million troops and partially undo post-Soviet reforms of the past decade originally meant to modernize force structure, Radio Free Europe reported.
Russia’s military, though much larger than Ukraine’s in terms of both troops and materiel, has struggled to gain an advantage in nine months of war amid massive defense assistance to Ukraine from the West.
Ukraine’s military claimed further Russian losses on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Putin’s remarks followed a historic visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Washington, the wartime leader’s first time exiting Ukraine’s borders since Moscow invaded his country in February. President Joe Biden promised unwavering support and unveiled a new $1.85 billion in weapons assistance, including for the first time the advanced Patriot missile defense system but continued to hold back on granting all of Kyiv’s requests.
Zelenskyy told Congress he recently proposed a peace plan for the end of the war, according to the WSJ.
The Kremlin is unaware of any ongoing peace discussions, Peskov said Friday, Russian state-run news agency TASS reported.
Russian ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov accused the West of carrying out a “proxy war” in Ukraine in order to bring down Russia on Friday, CNN reported.
“Zelensky’s visit and the conversations he held in Washington showed that neither the [Biden] administration nor Kiev are ready for peace but are focused on war, the death of rank-and-rifle soldiers and binding the Ukrainian regime even more tightly to US interests,” Antonov argued, according to TASS.
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