Vladimir Putin has blamed Ukraine and the West for starting the war in an address to the Russian parliament ahead of the one year anniversary of the conflict.
The Russian president referred to the “war” in Ukraine for the first time during his State of the Nation speech, after previously only referring to it as a special military operation.
Speaking at the Federal Assembly in Moscow today, he accused Ukraine and the West of being “culpable” for the conflict, which has seen up to 16,000 Ukrainian civilians killed, according to figures from the United Nations.
Putin said: “They started the war and we used the force to stop it.”
He claimed Kyiv provided weapons to attack the Donbas region – which is partly controlled by armed separatists – in 2014 and 2015 and they “continued shelling terror”.
Putin also suggested the West wants “infinite power” adding that they “spent $150bn to support militarily Kyiv’s regime.”
“The elites of the West are not hiding their goals… they are trying to inflict strategic defeat on Russia,” Putin said.
He accused the West of being “hypocritical” and expanding NATO’s sphere.
Parliamentarians applauded as Putin added: “I want to repeat: it is them who are culpable for the war, and we are using force to stop it.”
The speech follows a surprise visit by US president Joe Biden to Kyiv yesterday, where he pledged a further $500m in support for Ukraine after meeting president Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Ukrainian leader also visited the UK parliament earlier this month where he implored Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to give Ukraine fighter jets and visited Ukrainian troops being trained to fight with British Challenger 2 tanks in Dorset.
Zelensky’s call has been echoed by former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, but some Conservative MPs have suggested the UK does not have the planes to give and have demanded Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ramp up defence spending in the budget next month.
This Friday, February 24, marks the one-year anniversary of the war, which will be marked in the UK by a one minute silence at 11am, led by Sunak from Downing Street.