President says Moscow’s strategic forces remain at the highest level of readiness as he meets top defence officials.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow is upgrading its nuclear arsenal and keeping its strategic forces at the highest level of readiness as the West wages a “hybrid war” against it.
Moscow would continue what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, and all attempts to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia had crumbled, Putin told a conference of senior defence officials on Tuesday.
The Russian leader also accused the United States of exploiting Europe for its own interests and said his country planned no war on Europe.
Russia would be prepared to talk to Ukraine, the US and Europe about the future of Ukraine if they wanted to, but Moscow would defend its national interests, Putin said.
“In Ukraine, those who are aggressive towards Russia, and in Europe and in the United States – do they want to negotiate? Let them. But we will do it based on our national interests,” he said. “We will not give up what is ours.”
Russia would proceed from its own interests when dealing with Ukraine, regardless of Kyiv’s attempts to make any agreements, said Putin, who last week announced that his country’s goals in Ukraine remain unchanged and there will be no peace until they are achieved.
Ukraine’s membership of the NATO military alliance “is not acceptable for Russia in 10 years, and not in 20”, he said.
The president said Russia’s defence industry has reacted to the conflict in Ukraine faster than that of the West.
‘Boosted tank production’
Meanwhile, Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu told the same meeting that Russia had increased tank production by 5.6 times since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and had laid 7,000sq km (2,700sq miles) of minefields along the 2,000km (1,250-mile) front line.
Moscow has demanded “denazification, demilitarisation and a neutral status” of Ukraine – which Putin has repeated since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Russia has alleged that Ukraine’s government is heavily influenced by “radical nationalist” and neo-Nazi groups, which Kyiv and the West dispute.
The Russian government has also consistently demanded that Ukraine remain neutral and not join NATO.
Putin announced that he will run in the March 2024 presidential election, in which the 71-year-old leader is almost certain to win a fifth term. He has been in power for 24 years, including his prime ministerial stint, and a victory next year will see him remain president until 2030.