Putin says his goals in Ukraine remain the same and there will be no peace until they’re achieved

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Moscow, Dec 14: Russian President Vladimir Putin began his end-of-year news conference Thursday vowing that his goals in Ukraine remain the same and that there would be no peace until they’re achieved.

The Russian president, who has held power for nearly 24 years and announced recently he is running for reelection, was greeted with applause as he arrived in the hall in central Moscow.

This year, ordinary citizens have the chance to phone in questions along with those asked by journalists, and Russians have been submitting questions for Putin for two weeks. It is the first time Putin, who has heavily limited his interaction with foreign media, will potentially face multiple questions from Western journalists since before the fighting in Ukraine began.

Putin said Thursday that Moscow’s goals “de-Nazification, de-militarization and a neutral status” of Ukraine remain unchanged.

He spelled out those objectives the day he sent troops to Ukraine in February 2022.

“De-Nazification” refers from Russia’s allegations that the Ukrainian government is heavily influenced by radical nationalist and neo-Nazi groups. The claim is derided by Ukraine and the West.

Putin has also demanded that Ukraine remain neutral and not join the NATO alliance.

“There will be peace when we will achieve our goals,” Putin said.

The Kremlin has since repeatedly said that the “special military operation” in Ukraine will continue until those loosely defined goals are achieved.

Offering rare detail on Moscow’s operation, Putin said some 244,000 troops who were called up to fight in Ukraine are currently on the battlefield and dismissed the need for a second wave of mobilization of reservists. He did not given a total for the number of troops in Ukraine, where professional Russian military forces also fight.

In September 2022, Putin ordered a partial military call-up as he tried to boost his forces in Ukraine, sparking protests.

“There is no need,” for mobilization now, Putin said, because 1,500 men are being recruited into the Russian army every day across the country. He said, as of Wednesday evening, a total of 486,000 soldiers have signed a contract with the Russian military.

In addition to the fighting in Ukraine, the economy and social services are expected to be discussed at the news conference, Russian state journalists said.

Last year, Putin did not hold his usual call-in show with ordinary Russians or his traditional session with reporters.

In addition, his annual state-of-the-nation address was delayed until February of this year. His last news conference was in 2021 amid U.S warnings that Russia was on the brink of sending troops into Ukraine.

With the future of Western aid to Ukraine in doubt and another winter of fighting looming, neither side has managed to make significant battlefield gains recently. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to Washington on Tuesday and made an impassioned plea for more U.S. aid and weaponry.

Putin’s appearance is primarily aimed at a domestic audience and will be a chance for him to personally resolve the problems of ordinary Russian citizens and reinforce his grip on power ahead of the March 17 election.

“For the majority of people, this is their only hope and possibility of solving the most important problems,” according to a state television news report on the Russia 1 channel.

State media said that as of Wednesday, about 2 million questions for Putin had been submitted ahead of the broadcast, which is heavily choreographed and more about spectacle than scrutiny.

In 2021, Putin called a citizen who asked about water quality in the city of Pskov in western Russia and personally assured him he would order the government and local officials to fix the problem.

Some Russian journalists, who lined up for hours in freezing temperatures to get into the venue, have donned traditional dress, including elaborate hats in order to catch Putin’s attention. Many journalists also hold placards, prompting the Kremlin to limit the size of signs they can carry during the news conference, which often lasts about four hours.

Attendees must test for COVID-19 and flu before entering the news conference site. Putin enforced strict quarantine for visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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