By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia has barely started its military action in Ukraine and challenged Western countries supporting Kyiv to try to defeat Russia on the battlefield.
Speaking on July 7 at a meeting with leaders of the parliament, Putin accused Western allies of fueling the hostilities, charging that “the West wants to fight us until the last Ukrainian.”
He called it a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but added, “It looks like it’s heading in that direction,” and warned that everyone should understand that Russia “by and large hasn’t started anything seriously yet.”
In one of his strongest speeches since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Putin also directly challenged the Western allies backing Ukraine.
“Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. Well, what can you say here? Let them try,” Putin said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak responded to Putin’s comments by saying there is no plan by the “collective West.”
The only plan is that of the Russian army, “which entered sovereign Ukraine, shelling cities, and killing civilians. Everything else is primitive propaganda,” he said on Twitter. “That’s why Mr. Putin’s mantra about ‘war to the last Ukrainian’ is another proof of a well-thought-out Russian genocide.”
Western countries have described the Russian invasion of Ukraine as unprovoked, and the Group of Seven (G7) at its recent summit emphasized that the war in Ukraine is “illegal and unjustified.”
Moscow says what it calls its “special military operation” is the result of unsuccessful attempts to agree on security guarantees and on the expansion of NATO.
It accuses the West of waging a proxy war against it by imposing economic sanctions and stepping up the supply of advanced weapons to Ukraine.
The sanctions have steadily expanded, affecting Russia’s leading banks, defense-industry enterprises, large companies, and individuals, including Putin. Many multinational corporations have withdrawn from the Russian market, laying off thousands of Russian workers as they departed.
In his defiance July 7 speech, Putin charged that Western sanctions against Russia have failed to achieve their goal of “sowing division and strife in our society and demoralizing our people.”
He added that “attempts by the collective West to enforce its version of the global order are doomed to fail.”
But Putin also referred to the possibility of negotiations, saying, “We don’t reject peace talks. But those who reject them should know that the further it goes, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us.”
It was the first reference to diplomacy in many weeks after repeated statements from Moscow that negotiations with Kyiv had totally broken down.
Russian forces recently captured the eastern region of Luhansk and on July 7 continued to try to push deeper into the eastern Donbas region.