Putin claims Russia had ‘no choice’ but to invade Ukraine, says talks at ‘impasse’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called the war in Ukraine a “tragedy” but insisted that Russia had “no choice” but to invade its western neighbor.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting in eastern Russia with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said: “What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy, no doubt about that. But we had no choice. It was just a matter of time” before an attack on Russia.

Putin traveled to Russia’s far-eastern Amur region to meet with Lukashenko, a staunch ally who has supported the Russian president and his war in Ukraine. The two leaders discussed the war during the meeting, the Russian news agency Tass reported.

Economic sanctions imposed on his country have “failed,” Putin added, asserting that the Russian economy is steady despite the blows.

“The ‘blitzkrieg’ sanctions against Russia failed. The country’s industry and financial system are working, but of course there are some problems,” Putin said. “It’s clear that the Russian economy is stable. But in the medium and long term, the risks may increase. Our adversaries are planning to double down on their activities.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on April 12 that Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine would undoubtedly achieve its objectives. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Reuters)

What role has Belarus played in the Russia-Ukraine crisis?

Lukashenko called the war a “dangerous moment” with the West, blaming Britain and the United States, in particular. Putin thanked him for helping with negotiations with Ukraine but said they have reached a deadlock, for which he blamed the Ukrainians.

“Kyiv moved away from the Istanbul agreements, so we are back to an impasse,” Putin said, referring to negotiations in the Turkish city late last month. “Yesterday, I was told that the Ukrainian side has changed something in its negotiating position. I don’t know the details yet,” he added.

Putin also said it was unclear when the war would end. The “special military operation” in Ukraine is going as planned and will continue until its goals are met, he said. “We will act rhythmically, calmly, according to the plan that was originally proposed by the General Staff,” Putin said.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak denied that the peace negotiations were stalled and said Russia is trying to put pressure on Ukraine through such public statements.

The “negotiations are extremely difficult,” Podolyak told Ukraine’s Pravda. “But they are taking place.”

“It is understood that the Ukrainian delegation works exclusively within a framework that is pro-Ukrainian and transparent. It is also understood that the Russian side adheres to its traditional tactic of publicly pressing the negotiation process, including through certain public statements,” he added .

The rare news conference held by Putin and Lukashenko followed a visit by the two leaders to the Vostochny Cosmodrome to mark Russia’s annual Cosmonautics Day, which commemorates the world’s first human space flight, by a Soviet cosmonaut in 1961.

Hubris and isolation led Vladimir Putin to misjudge Ukraine

Belarus’s military has not joined the fight in Ukraine, but Russian soldiers have been based in Belarus since before the war began and launched their main ground offensive into northern Ukraine and toward Kyiv from Belarusian territory.

However, hundreds of pro-democracy activists from Belarus have joined the fight in Ukraine against Russia — inspired by Ukraine’s battlefield successes and determined to carry that momentum back into Belarus to end Lukashenko’s 28-year rule. Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has been a vocal opponent of the invasion and has labeled Lukashenko’s government a “co-aggressor” in Russia’s war.

Belarus’s support of Russia during the invasion has also made it a target of economic sanctions. “Belarus has become increasingly reliant on Russia for economic, political and military support in recent years,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement Feb. 24 announcing sanctions against the Eastern European country.

Putin supported his Belarusian counterpart when Lukashenko faced mass protests over the disputed 2020 election. At the time, Putin promised to send Russian forces to help quell the unrest. Russia also gave Belarus a $1.5 billion loan as a show of support.

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