In an unusual, wide-ranging interview with war correspondents and military bloggers, President Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday portrayed the Russian military as standing firm against a long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive, and suggested the conflict was fulfilling the goals he initially set out.
“The enemy is not winning on any front,” said Mr. Putin has been on a roll in recent days about the Ukrainian offensive, which has suffered heavy losses compared to Russia’s relatively few. In terms of tanks, for example, he said Ukraine had lost 160 compared to Russia’s 54, adding that some of the latter could be repaired. His claims could not be independently confirmed.
Mr. Putin has touched on every aspect of the conflict in recent weeks. He opted for a format he rarely used, allowing 18 reporters to investigate the war for more than two hours, in a style reminiscent of his annual “Direct Line” performance, in which he answers hours of questions from around the country.
He said Russia does not need to draft more new soldiers, having attracted about 156,000 contractors or other volunteers since January, on top of the 300,000 drafted last year.
Trying to make the most of the fact that Russia had suffered repeated setbacks in both men and weapons, he suggested that he had learned valuable lessons about how to better organize his armed forces.
He acknowledged that cross-border attacks from Ukraine by Russian partisans had caused damage, suggesting with some boldness that Russia create an “exclusion zone” on the Ukrainian side of the border to prevent its artillery from reaching Russia.
At one point, he even suggested that the Russian army march back into the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Russian forces were forced out of Kyiv after failing to take it within days of a promised full-scale invasion in February 2022, and lost a large area around the eastern city of Kharkiv to a Ukrainian offensive last fall.
For Nikolai Petrov, a seasoned political analyst, the whole effort was Mr. Putin seemed to be trying to prove that he was a commander. More importantly, Mr. Petrov speculated.
Because the public trusts reporters and bloggers more than the Defense Ministry, his choice of interlocutors was aimed at creating the appearance of a balanced analysis, throwing out details such as the number of Russian tanks destroyed, Mr Petrov said. .
“Unless he is trying to address a Western or Ukrainian audience, there is no reason for him to be so public and give such detailed explanations,” he said. “The idea is to prove that he’s a commander who knows everything about everything.”
Despite Western backers, Mr. Putin said. He admitted various previously secret information, such as pardons he had given to criminals who had fought for Wagner’s private military group.
Much of what he said was nothing new, such as threatening to withdraw from a deal that allowed Ukraine to export millions of tons of grain from Black Sea ports, which he said he was doing despite Russia’s control of the waterways. Many parts of the world needed grain.
He noted that military production increased by 2.7 times, and in some cases by 10 times, using a slightly different story to explain their quality. Mr. Putin said.
Defense Minister Sergey K. Yevgeny V., the infamous founder of Shoigu and Wagner’s private military force. In the latest episode in the feud between Prigozhin and Mr. Prigozhin rejected the Defense Ministry’s invitation to sign contracts for all such organizations. By July 1st. The move was seen as an attempt to extend some control over such forces, which are technically illegal in Russia, while giving them full military privileges.
Mr. Putin said he supported calls for paramilitary organizations to sign such agreements. Mr. Petrov, Inspector, President Mr. Suggesting he is using Prigozhin as a foil, the mercenary commander has repeatedly called for escalating attacks against Ukraine and putting the economy on a war footing. “It’s his style to let his guy say something terrible to be nice before any negotiations,” Mr. Petrov said.
Alina Lobzina Contributed report.