Putin to update Russia’s elite on Ukraine war in major speech

February 21, 2023 - 10:20 AM
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FILE PHOTO: Russia's President Vladimir Putin takes part in an event marking Gazprom's 30th anniversary, via video link at a residence outside Moscow, Russia February 17, 2023. (Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS)

 – President Vladimir Putin will update Russia’s political and military elite on the state of what he calls his “special military operation” in Ukraine on Tuesday with many Russians eager to know what his plans are for the year ahead.

Putin will set out his latest thinking in a speech to members of both houses of parliament and to military commanders and soldiers nearly one year after he sent troops into Ukraine, a decision that triggered the biggest confrontation with the West since the depths of the Cold War.

“At such a crucial and very complicated juncture in our development, our lives, everyone is waiting for a message in the hope of hearing an assessment of what is happening, an assessment of the special military operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state television.

Putin will also give his analysis of the international situation and outline his vision of Russia’s development after the West imposed sweeping sanctions on it, the Kremlin said.

The speech is due to begin at 0900 GMT in central Moscow.

The Ukraine conflict is by far the biggest bet by a Kremlin chief since at least the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union – and a gamble Western leaders such as U.S. President Joe Biden say he must lose.

Russian forces have suffered three major battlefield reversals since the war began but still control around one fifth of Ukraine.

Tens of thousands of men have been killed, and Putin, 70, now says Russia is locked in an existential battle with an arrogant West which he says wants to carve up Russia and steal its vast natural resources.

Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny accused Putin on Monday of destroying Russia’s future for the sake of his own personal ambitions.

“The real reasons for this war are the political and economic problems within Russia, Putin’s desire to hold on to power at any cost, and his obsession with his own historical legacy,” Navalny said.

“He wants to go down in history as ‘the conqueror tsar’.”

With the West supporting Ukraine, China’s position has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.

China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, is due to visit Moscow shortly, and may possibly even meet Putin, as the United States says it is concerned Beijing may be considering supplying weapons to Russia.

Chinese weapons supplies to Russia would risk a potential escalation of the Ukraine war into a confrontation between Russia and China on the one side and Ukraine and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance on the other.—Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Alison Williams