After a week of silence, Putin heads west and promises victory in Ukraine

  • Putin is visiting the Russian Far East
  • The West’s economic Blitzkrieg has failed – Putin
  • Russia to achieve ‘noble’ war goals – Putin
  • Russia can not be isolated – Putin

LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin swore on Tuesday that Russia would win all its “noble” war goals in Ukraine, using its first public comments on the conflict in a week to encourage the West to refrain from bringing Moscow to heel with an economic Blitzkrieg.

Putin said the situation in Ukraine was a tragedy when he spoke about the war publicly for the first time since Russian forces withdrew from northern Ukraine after being stopped at Kyiv’s gates.

But Russia had no choice but to fight, he said, because it would defend Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine and prevent its former Soviet neighbor from becoming an anti-Russian springboard for Moscow’s enemies.

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61 years since the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, Putin was shown by state television on a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome 5,450 miles (5550 km) east of Moscow.

Asked by Russian space agency workers whether the operation in Ukraine would achieve its goals, Putin said: “Absolutely. I have no doubt at all.”

“Its goals are absolutely clear and noble,” Putin said. “There is no doubt that the goals will be achieved.”

“The Blitzkrieg that our enemies were counting on did not work,” Putin said of the West’s crippling sanctions imposed following Putin’s order on February 24 for an invasion of Ukraine.

Putin, who says Ukraine and Russia are basically one people, sees the war as an inevitable confrontation with the United States, which he says threatened Russia by interfering in its backyard.

The West has condemned the war as a brutal conquest of a sovereign country in imperialist style. Ukraine says it is fighting for its survival after Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 and on February 21 recognized two of its rebel regions as sovereign.

Putin, who had been ubiquitous on Russian television in the early days of the war, had largely withdrawn from the public eye since Russia’s withdrawal from northern Ukraine this month.

His only public appearance in the past week was at the funeral of a nationalist legislator, where he did not speak directly about the war. On Monday, he met Austria’s guest chancellor at a country house outside Moscow, but no photos of the meeting were released.

‘TOO LARGE TO INSULATE’

Putin drew an analogy between Gagarin’s first spaceflight 61 years ago and Russia’s despite today.

“The sanctions were total, the isolation was complete, but the Soviet Union was still first in space,” Putin, 69, said, recalling his own wonder as he learned about the performance.

“We do not intend to be isolated,” Putin said. “It is impossible to seriously isolate anyone in the modern world – especially a country as large as Russia.”

Kremlin chiefs have long cited the Soviet Union’s success in space – just over a decade after the devastation of World War II – as a warning story about Russia’s ability to achieve spectacular results against all odds.

Russia’s space successes from the Cold War, such as Gagarin’s escape and the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, the first artificial satellite from Earth, have a particular relevance to Russia: both events shocked the United States.

The launch of Sputnik 1 triggered the public phase of the Cold War space race and prompted US President Dwight D. Eisenhower to set up the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Still, Russia’s economy is tiny compared to the superpower of the Soviet Union – and has lagged behind the United States and China on most technological fronts.

Last year, Russia’s nominal economic output was only $ 1.6 trillion – less than Italy’s – and only about 7% of the US $ 22.9 trillion economy.

Russia’s economy is on the verge of contracting by more than 10% in 2022, the worst since the years after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Tuesday. Read more

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Written by Guy Faulconbridge Edited by Peter Graff and Tomasz Janowski

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