President Vladimir V. Putin said on Tuesday that Russia is fighting for its very existence in Ukraine, which he said Western states were using to destabilize and “pull apart” Russia.
Speaking at a military helicopter factory in Buryatia, a mountainous Russian republic more than 2,700 miles east of Moscow, Mr. Putin said that Western states were seeking to “improve their geopolitical standing” by being getting involved in the war in Ukraine but that for Russia the stakes were much more serious.
“This is not a geopolitical task for us,” said Mr. Putin in a meeting that was televised by Russian state networks. “For us this is a fight for the existence of Russian statehood.”
Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion more than a year ago, the Kremlin has been trying to portray the war in Ukraine as an existential fight that Russia cannot afford to lose. Mr. Putin has been saying that he was left with no choice but to send troops to Ukraine after spending years trying to settle the conflict in the country’s east.
He was referring to tensions over Russia’s earlier invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when it illegally seized Crimea and supported the establishment of two self-declared pro-Russian republics in the country’s east.
Western states argue that Mr. Putin is waging a war that is at once deeply personal and imperial in scope. He is seeking to conquer Ukraine and subjugate its people, with his troops committing war crimes and bombing civilians.
Speaking in Ulan-Ude, Buryatia’s capital, Mr. Putin said that Russia must “consolidate the whole society” to end the war and “bring peace and stability closer.”
Mr. Putin said that he had been worried about whether Russia could withstand the economic pressure from sanctions imposed over his decision to invade. He said that in retrospect, the past year “was only beneficial for us.”
“We have increased our economic sovereignty many times over,” said Mr. Putin. “After all, what did our enemy count on? That we would collapse in two to three weeks or in a month.”
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