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Putin concedes Ukraine war may be ‘a long process’ but cites ‘serious’ gains

Dec. 8, 2022 Updated Thu., Dec. 8, 2022 at 11:41 a.m.

By Natalia Abbakumova and Ellen Francis Washington Post

Russia President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Wednesday that Russia’s war in Ukraine was a “long process” but he boasted of having achieved a “meaningful result” - the acquisition of illegally annexed territory - and said there was currently no need to mobilize additional soldiers.

During a televised meeting in Moscow, Putin grew defensive at the suggestion that the conflict, which he calls a “special military operation,” was “a long process” and his comments showed no indication that he was willing to seek a negotiated end to the war.

“As for the long process and the results of the SMO, of course, this is a long process - maybe,” Putin said. “But then you mentioned that new territories have appeared - this is still a meaningful result for Russia. This is a serious issue. And, no use denying it, the Sea of ​​Azov has become the inland sea of ​​the Russian Federation. These are serious things.”

Putin was describing how Russia has occupied all of Ukraine’s coastal territory, from the Russian border to the east bank of Dnieper River, including parts of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaprorizhzhia and Kherson regions, which he has claimed to be annexed.

While warning that “the threat of nuclear war is growing,” Putin in his televised remarks, defended Moscow’s nuclear policies and said its nuclear strategy was based on “retaliatory strikes.”

“We have not gone crazy, we are aware of what nuclear weapons are,” he said. “We have these tools, and they are in a more modern state than in any other nuclear country, but we are not going to brandish them like a razor all over around the world.”

Previously, Putin and other senior Russian officials had hinted Moscow would turn to nuclear weapons to defend what it considers to be its own sovereign territory. By insisting that Russia would not strike first, Putin was reinforcing previous allegations that the United States and its NATO allies are the ones creating a threat of a nuclear conflict.

Putin’s remarks followed weeks of battlefield setbacks resulting from Ukrainian counteroffensives, carried out with a stream of Western weaponry, that pushed Russian to retreat from swaths of east and south Ukraine. The Russian surrender of the city of Kherson last month marked a blow in the Kremlin’s bid to sweep through Ukraine, just weeks after Putin had declared the Kherson region to be part of Russia.

During more than nine months of war, the Russian leader has alluded to his country’s arsenal in what U.S. and European officials have described as veiled nuclear threats to deter Western involvement or Ukrainian strikes inside Russia.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with Funke media published Thursday that international pressure had diminished the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons.

Wednesday’s meeting with loyalists and pro-war groups touched on tough conditions on the front lines as the winter cold bites, but Putin signaled Russian forces should brace for the long haul.

He also said nearly 150,000 of the 300,000 reservists called up by October had been sent to Ukraine, including to combat units, while the rest were at training centers, so it made “no sense” to discuss further mobilization.

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