Putin says his main priority is safeguarding ‘the very existence of Russia’ in war against Ukraine

Putin’s Vision for Russia’s Sovereignty-

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his first marathon end-of-year press conference since the invasion of Ukraine, emphasized that his main priority is safeguarding ‘the very existence of Russia.’

The hours-long ‘End of the Year with Vladimir Putin’ conference follows his announcement of running in March’s presidential election, potentially extending his stay in the Kremlin until 2030.

Putin underscored the necessity of strengthening Russia’s borders, political system, social sovereignty, and economic and technological spheres.

Economic Resilience Amidst Sanctions

Putin lauded the state of the Russian economy despite Western economic sanctions, citing economic growth and wage increases.

Addressing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, he asserted that the ‘special military operation’ would conclude when Russia achieves its goals, emphasizing denazification, demilitarization, and Ukraine’s neutral status.

Responding to questions about troop mobilization, Putin highlighted the success of voluntary recruitment campaigns, questioning the need for additional mobilization.

International Relations and Conflict Narratives

Expressing frustration with the West’s support for Ukraine, Putin criticized attempts to normalize relations, accusing the West of pushing Russia back.

He pointed to historical events, including the 2014 coup d’etat, blaming the U.S. for spending billions on destabilizing Ukraine and attempting to bring it into NATO.

Putin questioned the sincerity of European nations and accused them of aspiring to encroach on Russia’s borders.

Updates on Ukraine Conflict and International Involvement

Putin provided updates on the conflict in Ukraine, asserting that Russia’s forces had repelled a counteroffensive and continued to achieve military success.

He dismissed comparisons with other conflicts, such as the Israel-Gaza situation, emphasizing the catastrophic nature of events in Gaza. Putin outlined Russia’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza, including potential medical assistance.

Press Conference Overview and Election Ambitions

The press conference, part of the annual “Direct Line” series, was canceled last year due to challenges faced in Ukraine. Putin, now sensing a potential shift in fortunes, addressed domestic and international issues.

The event allowed Russian callers to pose questions, with over 1.5 million requests received. Putin’s election campaign, launched recently, faces little opposition, with key rival Alexei Navalny imprisoned.

The Kremlin has intensified its crackdown on dissent since the Ukraine conflict, resulting in thousands of detentions.

Economic Impact and Challenges Ahead

The war in Ukraine has impacted Russia’s economy, raising domestic prices and necessitating a substantial allocation of the budget for defense. Russia’s economic growth would have exceeded 5 percent if not for the conflict.

The war has strained the economy, with Moscow spending over $100 billion, nearly a third of its total expenditures, on defense in 2023. Despite challenges, Russia’s oil and gas revenue, the backbone of its economy, has shown some recovery.

EU Summit and Ongoing Ukraine Crisis

As Putin spoke, EU leaders deliberated a massive aid package and membership talks for Ukraine.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a close ally of Russia in the EU, threatened to veto the move, complicating Ukraine’s efforts to secure financial aid and progress toward EU membership.

The EU partially unblocked frozen funds, but challenges persist in securing the full aid package. Meanwhile, Russia fired missiles at Kyiv, causing casualties, highlighting the ongoing intensity of the conflict.

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