Russia’s Putin blames West and Ukraine for provoking conflict

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the opening of new health facilities via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on February 15, 2023.

Mikhail Metzel | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday used a widely-watched speech to deny responsibility for the war in Ukraine and lash out at his adversaries.

Putin claimed Russia had been attempting to allow citizens in the contested Donbas region to speak their “own language” and had attempted to resolve the conflict peacefully.

He also cited the expansion of NATO and new European anti-rocket defense systems as provoking Russia.

“We had no doubt that by February 2022, everything was prepared for a punitive action in Donbas, where [the] Kyiv regime provided artillery and aviation and other weapons to attack Donbas in 2014. In 2015, they attempted again to directly attack Donbas, they continued shelling, terror,” he said.

“All of this was completely against the documents that were accepted by the United Nations Security Council. I would like to repeat: they started the war. And we used the force in order to stop it.”

Russian forces entered Ukraine in 2014, resulting in the annexation of Crimea. The invasion was widely condemned by the international community and resulted in rounds of Western sanctions against Russian officials.

If Russia wins the war, 'the world will end up in chaos': Ukraine foreign minister

Putin’s “state of the nation” address is being delivered in Moscow to lawmakers and military officials and being broadcast on state TV.

Feb. 24 will mark one year since Russia mounted a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, beginning a ground war in Europe that Putin still refers to as a “special military operation.” Intense fighting continues across the war-torn nation.

U.S. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Monday, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Biden said the trip was to “reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.” He also promised to deliver more artillery ammunition and anti-armor systems, and to announce new sanctions on Russian companies and its elites.

Biden is due to deliver another speech, pointedly following Putin’s, in Poland. He is also meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Biden's Kyiv visit shows administration is doubling down on its support for Ukraine, analyst says

This is a breaking news story, please check back later for more.

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