CONFIDENT Vladimir Putin tonight fiercely defended his invasion of Ukraine, claiming the war was a “success” even though the Russian army suffered heavy casualties.
On the eighth day of the conflict, Russia’s president addressed his people, saying Ukrainians had been “brainwashed” and insisting that his soldiers were the “real heroes”.
Russia has now admitted for the first time that it suffered casualties during its invasion – 500 soldiers were killed and around 1,600 wounded.
Hopes of a quick victory have been dashed as harrowing images have emerged of burnt-out Russian vehicles and soldiers sobbing after their surrender.
In a heated televised session with his Security Council, President Putin branded Ukrainians “extreme gangsters” and accused the military of using civilians as “human shields” — despite the lack of evidence to support this.
In response, Zelenskyy Putin offered to meet him and told the Russian tyrant, “I don’t bite.”
He downplayed the scale of the invasion as a “special operation” to protect the eastern Donbass region and insisted his plans were on time and on schedule, despite Russian casualties.
Putin denied Ukrainian claims that Russian forces are deliberately targeting civilians, instead blaming “neo-Nazis” holding the people of Ukraine hostage for the 2,000 civilian casualties so far.
In his first address since the conflict began eight days ago, Putin admitted that his forces had lost “some small towns” and acknowledged that some Russian forces, including a senior commander, had died in combat.
But he claimed the officer blew himself up in a heroic act of sacrifice, knocking out several Ukrainian troops.
He gave no indication of when the war might end.
In an appeal to his Russian counterpart, Zelenskyy said: “Leave our country. Don’t want to go now?
“Then sit down with me at the negotiating table. I am available. You sit down. Just not 30 meters away like Macron or Scholz etc. I’m your neighbor. You don’t have to keep me 30 meters away.
“I do not bite. I’m a normal guy. Sit with me and talk. What are you afraid of? We don’t threaten anyone, we’re not terrorists, we don’t seize banks and we don’t seize foreign countries.”
It comes just hours after Putin called French President Emmanuel Macron and defiantly told him he has no intention of withdrawing from Ukraine.
He also told his French counterpart that he would stand by his calls for Ukraine’s demilitarization, insisting he would achieve his military goals “whatever happens” and fight on “to the end”.
🔵 Read ours Live blog Russia – Ukraine for the very latest updates
Putin reportedly told Macron during the confrontation call that he wanted to “take over all of Ukraine.”
“The president’s expectation is that the worst is to come, given what President Putin has told him,” said a senior Macron adviser.
For his part, Macron warned Putin his invasion was a “big mistake” and accused the Russian leader of “lying to himself”.
It comes as:
He was quoted by a French official as telling Putin: “‘It will cost your country dearly, your country will end up isolated, weakened and sanctioned for a very long time.'”
Putin’s comments appear to be in response to statements by Western governments and intelligence agencies that Russia’s war effort has stalled.
“I would like to say that the special military operation is strictly on schedule,” Putin said.
“According to plan. All assigned tasks are solved successfully.”
Putin also reiterated two of his main justifications for the invasion – that Ukrainians are Russians and the “denazification” of Ukraine.
“I will never give up my belief that Russians and Ukrainians are one people,” he said.
“But the course of the fight shows that we are fighting neo-Nazis.”
He also commended the efforts of the Russian soldiers’ “heroic” actions, saying that the families of all Russian soldiers killed in the fighting would be compensated.
“Now our soldiers and officers on Ukrainian territory are fighting for Russia, for peaceful life of Donbass citizens, for denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, so that we are not threatened by anti-Russian law on our borders that the West has been creating for years,” he said.
Russian troops are escalating their efforts to seize Ukraine, with Putin’s army claiming their first major city in the conflict yet.
Horror images surrounding the capital Kyiv showed the devastation caused by another night of air raids and shelling by the Russians.
Everything you need to know about the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Everything you need to know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…
But the war has so far cost Russia enormously, both in terms of soldiers lost and in economic terms.
Russia is becoming increasingly isolated as it feels the crushing weight of Western sanctions.
On Thursday, video showed Russians panic-buying at Moscow’s Ikea store after the Swedish giant announced it was shutting down operations in the country in response to the war.
Russian and Ukrainian officials met Thursday for a second round of negotiations in which they agreed to set up a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians.
But the bombardment of civilian areas by Putin’s forces continued throughout the day, with an airstrike on an apartment block killing 22 civilians earlier Thursday.
So far, more than 2,000 civilians have been killed in the first eight days of the conflict.
The military special operation runs strictly according to schedule
In the southern city of Mariupol, a distraught Dad cried over the dead body of his teenage son after being killed in a Russian airstrike.
On Wednesday accused the mayor of Mariupol Russia commits “genocide” against Ukrainians in the city, after more than half a day of continuous shelling.
President Zelenskyy’s top adviser has warned Putin that if he is not stopped he will “demand blood beyond Ukraine”.
“This war could be a prologue to a larger European or even global massacre,” Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, wrote in the New York Times.
“Not since the end of World War II has Europe seen violence and territorial ambition on this scale.”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/4815445/vladimir-putin-ukraine-russia-war-gangsters/ Vladimir Putin calls Ukrainians “extreme gangsters” and “brainwashed” while Zelenskyy tells the despot: “Let’s talk, I don’t bite”