Almost ten months after Russia invaded Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Wednesday that Russia’s “special military operation” is a “long process” and signaled he has no plans to give up the Ukrainian territory Russia has captured.
“As for the duration of the special military operation, well, of course, this can be a long process,” Putin said at a meeting of his Human Rights Council. While he expects the war to be long, the Russian leader said he saw no need to mobilize more troops. He said that the war had brought results for Russia, including the territories it annexed in the Donbas, Kherson, and Zaporizhia.
“New territories have appeared. This is a significant result for Russia. These are serious questions. Take the Sea of Azov, which has become Russia’s inland sea,” Putin said. The Russian leader added that he believes the most important thing isn’t the territory but the people who live there that want to be part of Russia.
Putin’s comments are another sign that there is no end in sight to the fighting in Ukraine. While Putin now considers this territory part of Russia, officials in Kyiv maintain their goal is to drive Russia out of all the areas it has captured since February and Crimea, which Russia has controlled since 2014.
In his comments on Wednesday, Putin also warned that the risk of nuclear war is increasing. When asked by a member of the Human Rights Council if he would commit to a no first use policy, Putin said the obligation could prevent Russia from using a nuclear weapon in the event of a nuclear attack.
“If it doesn’t use it first under any circumstances, it means that it won’t be the second to use it either because the possibility of using it in case of a nuclear strike on our territory will be sharply limited,” he said.
The US slammed Putin’s comments as “loose talk” about nuclear weapons, but the US also doesn’t have a no first use policy. President Biden has also recently warned that the risk of nuclear war is higher today than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.