Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted the invasion of Ukraine is “going to plan” – as he praised his soldiers as “real heroes”.
“All objectives that were set are being resolved or achieved successfully,” he said in a televised address, despite Western intelligence suggesting the invasion is behind the Kremlin’s schedule.
The speech seemed designed to rebut statements by Western governments and intelligence agencies that have said Russia’s campaign stumbled in the face of logistical problems, tactical mistakes, and a stronger-than-expected response from Ukraine.
Ukraine live: Putin accused of ‘genocide’ in key city
He also reiterated his claims Russia is fighting “neo-Nazis”, referring to the war as a “special operation” – something that has been widely refuted by the West as propaganda.
“Now on Ukrainian territory, our soldiers, and officers are fighting for Russia, for a peaceful life for the citizens of Donbass, for the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, so that we can’t be threatened by an anti-Russia right on our borders that the West has been creating for years,” he said.
The Russian leader also announced a posthumous award to a fallen Russian soldier who he says “blew himself up” with a grenade to avoid being captured.
He promised monetary compensation for the families of dead and wounded servicemen.
Mr Putin said Ukrainians and Russians are “one people” but that Ukrainians have been “threatened and brainwashed”.
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He made a series of comments – for which he did not provide evidence – saying that Ukrainian forces were holding foreign citizens hostage and using human shields.
He also maintained his military has offered safe corridors, so civilians can escape the war, which he has blamed on Ukraine.
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British government accused of lying
As Mr Putin said he will destroy this “Anti-Russia” created by the West, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry claimed videos of missile strikes in Ukraine are part of the country’s propaganda.
In a bizarre exchange with Sky News international affairs editor Dominic Waghorn, Maria Zakharova accused the British government of lying over its invasion of Iraq back in 2003.
She said the Russian ministry of defence is “targeting the military infrastructure” and it is “true there are victims among the armed forces and civilians”.
“But it is surprising you are asking this question, you are the representative of a country that for so many years, for decades, has been waging a bloodshed war in countries that don’t have a common border with you,” Ms Zakharova continued.
“About who is lying, it is the British government who is lying.”
Second round of peace talks begin
It comes as Ukrainian and Russian officials held a second round of talks, with both sides agreeing to support humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians – possibly involving a temporary ceasefire.
Mr Putin has warned Ukraine it must accept the Kremlin’s demand for “demilitarisation” and declare itself neutral, formally renouncing its bid to join NATO.
He has long maintained that Ukraine’s turn towards the West is a threat to Moscow, and has used it as justification for the invasion.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed an application to join the European Union, asking for permission to join immediately under a special procedure as it defends itself against Russian forces.