Putin says West is using Ukraine to destroy Russia

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu says victory for Moscow over Ukrainians is 'inevitable'

President Vladimir Putin said Russia was fighting in Ukraine to protect its “motherland”. Reuters.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday his country would never give in to what he called the West's attempts to use Ukraine as a tool to destroy Russia.

In a New Year's video message broadcast on Russian state TV, Mr Putin said Russia was fighting in Ukraine to protect its “motherland” and to secure “true independence” for its people.

In a nine-minute message — the longest New Year's address of his two-decade rule — Mr Putin accused the West of lying to Russia and of provoking Moscow to launch what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“For years, Western elites hypocritically assured us of their peaceful intentions,” he said in a speech filmed in front of Russian service personnel at the headquarters of the country's southern military district.

“In fact, in every possible way they were encouraging neo-Nazis who conducted open terrorism against civilians in the Donbas,” Mr Putin said in a New Year's speech.

Earlier, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said victory for Russia over Ukraine was “inevitable” as he hailed Russian soldiers' heroism in a new year's video message.

Moscow's defence chief, who has been heavily criticised by pro-war voices in Russia for battlefield failures during the 10-month campaign, said the situation on the front lines remained “difficult” and lambasted Ukraine and the West for trying to contain Russia.

“We meet the New Year in a difficult military-political situation,” Mr Shoigu said. “At a time when there are those who are trying to erase our glorious history and great achievements, demolish monuments to the victors over fascism, put war criminals on a pedestal, cancel and desecrate everything Russian.”

With bloody fighting continuing across the 1,000-kilometre front line, and Russia not having secured any territorial gains since the first months of the war, Mr Shoigu told Russian soldiers: “Victory, like the New Year, is inevitable.”

Mr Shoigu also praised the “immortal actions, selfless courage and heroism” shown by Russian troops fighting what he called “neo-Nazism and terrorism”.

Kyiv and the West have rejected Russia's assertion it is fighting “Nazis” in Ukraine as a baseless pretext for Mr Putin's attempt to seize territory and topple Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a war of unprovoked aggression.

Moscow had expected swift victory in what it calls a “special military operation”, but Ukraine's spirited resistance and billions of dollars of western arms supplies have helped Kyiv turn the tide of the war and mount a series of stunning counteroffensives.

Ukraine has now reclaimed more than half of the territory seized by Russia during the first weeks of its invasion.

Updated: December 31, 2022, 4:34 PM