Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has again assured that he has ‘no problem’ with neighbours Finland and Sweden joining NATO, while at the same time decrying the alliance’s ‘imperial ambitions’ and bid to assert ‘supremacy’.
His remarks come as NATO formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance after Turkey dropped its opposition, while also announcing it will boost troops on its eastern flank by almost 4,000 compared to March this year.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the war in Ukraine has brought ‘the biggest overhaul of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.
But Putin put on an unconcerned air when speaking to reporters in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat yesterday.
‘There is nothing that could bother us about Sweden and Finland joining NATO,’ he said. ‘If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That’s up to them. They can join whatever they want.’
However, ‘if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us.’
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has again assured that he has ‘no problem’ with neighbours Finland and Sweden joining NATO while at the same time decrying the alliance’s ‘imperial ambitions’ and bid to assert ‘supremacy’
Putin was in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan to attend the VI Caspian Summit with the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto at the NATO summit in Madrid, after NATO formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the bloc
American aircraft carrier USS Kearsage is pictured on NATO drills in Sweden earlier this month, as the Scandinavian country is formally invited to join the alliance today
NATO will deploy and extra 4,000 troops to its eastern frontier as part of enhanced defences against Russia, boosting the size of its garrisons in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia
Until now, Russia had always been critical of the prospect of the two Nordic countries joining the alliance, saying it would be a ‘destabilising factor’ for international security.
Putin nevertheless condemned NATO’s ‘imperial ambitions’, accusing the alliance of seeking to assert its ‘supremacy’ through the Ukraine conflict.
‘Ukraine and the well-being of Ukrainian people is not the aim of the collective West and NATO but a means to defend their own interests,’ Putin told journalists in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat.
‘The NATO countries’ leaders wish to… assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions,’ he added.
The Atlantic alliance and ‘above all the United States have long needed an external enemy around which they can unite their allies,’ the Russian leader said.
‘Iran wasn’t good for that. We’ve given them this opportunity… to gather the whole world around them.’
Putin downplayed his antagonism towards the two Nordic neighbours who have traditionally been nominally neutral countries primarily so as not to provoke Russia.
From the left: Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, Turkmenistan’s President Serdar Berdymukhamedov, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the VI Caspian Summit
Vladimir Putin, left, speaks to Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the VI Caspian Summit, where leaders of autocratic Central Asian countries met to discuss ‘topical issues of cooperation in the Caspian Sea’
‘We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine,’ Putin told the news conference.
‘We don’t have territorial differences,’ the Russian leader continued. ‘But they should understand that they didn’t face any threats before this.
It is likely that Sweden and Finland don’t see it that way, both deciding to apply to join NATO after Russia launched its military invasion of pro-Western Ukraine on February 24.
The Russian strongman warned his Scandinavian neighbours that if they welcome NATO troops and military infrastructure onto their territory, Russia will respond in kind.
He said that his country will have to ‘create the same threats for the territory from which threats against us are created.’
‘What don’t they understand?’ Putin asked rhetorically. ‘Everything was going fine between us, and now there will be tensions.’
The Russian leader was in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat for the VI Caspian Summit of leaders from autocratic Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to discuss ‘topical issues of cooperation in the Caspian Sea’.
Putin also said his goals in Ukraine have not changed since the start of the war. He said they were ‘the liberation of the Donbas, the protection of these people and the creation of conditions that would guarantee the security of Russia itself.’
He made no mention of his original stated goals to ‘demilitarise’ and ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine.
He denied Russia adjusted its strategy after failing to take Kyiv. ‘As you can see, the troops are moving and reaching the marks that were set for them for a certain stage of this combat work. Everything is going according to plan,’ Putin said added.
This is the moment a Russian missile slammed into a Ukrainian shopping centre on Monday, exploding with a huge fireball that left at least 18 civilians dead and 59 wounded, with another 21 missing
Footage reveals the bomb was likely a Russian AS-4 ‘Kitchen’ guided missile – a Soviet-era weapon that was originally designed to take out American aircraft carriers
Putin also denied responsibility for the missile strike on the Kremenchuk shopping mall earlier this week that killed at least 18 people, with dozens still unaccounted for.
‘Our army does not attack any civilian infrastructure site. We have every capability of knowing what is situated where,’ Putin said.
As many as 1,000 people were feared to have been inside when it was hit. Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky denounced Russia’s actions as ‘one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history’. Russia has accused Ukraine of staging the attack.
Igor Konashenkov, a spokesperson for Russia’s defence ministry, said its military fired a ‘high-precision air attack at hangars where armament and munitions were stored’, and the explosion of those weapon caches caused a fire in the nearby shopping mall, which he said was ‘non-functioning’ at the time.
Russian denials have been met with scepticism and debunked by numerous media outlets and open source intelligence analysts.
There is even video of CCTV that shows a large missile hitting the the mall at 3.51pm on Monday.
The terrifying footage captured the moment the Ukrainian shopping centre was eviscerated by a Russian anti-ship missile, debunking Kremlin claims that the mall accidentally caught fire after it hit a factory nearby.