Russian President Vladimir Putin has sharply criticized Western sanctions against his country. These were like a declaration of war, he says. In a speech broadcast on state television, Putin justified the Russian invasion of Ukraine by saying that the Russian-speaking population there and Russia’s own interests had to be defended. And Putin warned against enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
“Any movement in this direction is considered by us as a country’s participation in an armed conflict,” Putin said Saturday at a meeting with pilots from state airline Aeroflot, whom the president met ahead of International Women’s Day on Tuesday. It does not matter which organization these countries belong to.
NATO had already rejected a corresponding request from Ukraine. The Allies are in agreement that NATO aircraft should not operate in Ukrainian airspace, the secretary general of the military alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Friday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had previously urged the NATO countries to prevent Russia from launching further airstrikes on his country.
Putin also sees no prerequisites for the declaration of martial law in Russia. Such a situation requires external aggression or fighting in specific regions, Putin said. “But we don’t have a situation like that, and I hope it doesn’t come either.” He is also not planning a state of emergency. He countered the fears of many Russians. As a result, many have already left the country.
Once again, Putin reiterated his terms for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine. “Our proposals are on the table with a group of negotiators from Kyiv. We hope they will respond positively to it.” The most important demand is the demilitarization of Ukraine. “We need to know clearly what weapons are where and what control they are under.” Various options are currently being discussed with the Ukrainian delegation.
According to Putin, the “destruction of military infrastructure” in Ukraine “as part of the operation (…) is practically complete”. He mentioned weapons and ammunition depots.