Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his country’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday in a filmed segment of a session of the country’s security council.
Russia will not back down, Putin emphasized, while spending much of the terse address explaining what benefits would be provided to the families of dead and wounded Russian soldiers.
“The special operation in Ukraine is in full accordance with the timetable, and is going according to plan,” Putin said. “All tasks set during the special operation in Ukraine are being successfully accomplished.”
U.S. and British military officials have said that the Russian assault has encountered seemingly unexpected challenges, noting that a 40-mile-long Russian column is stuck on the road north of Kyiv, as Russians recalibrate after facing tougher-than-anticipated resistance from the Ukrainian army.
Thursday’s speech was Putin’s first public appearance this week. In his last speech, as the invasion got underway, Putin declared that Ukraine was being run by a “band of drug addicts and neo-Nazis.”
The Russian leader spoke for several minutes Thursday, seated at a desk. Unlike the last security council meeting, which featured multiple officials in a large room, speaking to Putin from a long distance away, this one was held by video conference. Only Putin spoke.
He struck a belligerent and somber tone, devoting much of the address to discussing how the families of dead and wounded Russian soldiers would receive significant compensation in the form of social benefits.
“Russian soldiers and officers are acting courageously, like real heroes,” Putin said. “Our armed forces completely understand what they are fighting for and know they are right.”
Information on the progress of the Russian campaign is difficult to assess. U.S. officials have placed the number of Russian deaths in a wide range, from 500 to 5,000, in the war’s first week — though the extent to which Putin felt the need to pay attention to the issue of deaths may itself indicate the severity of the situation.
Putin doubled down on the reasons that he said Russia was fighting the war. “I will never stand down from the view that Russians and Ukrainians are one people,” he said.
He added that civilian casualties had been due to “neo-Nazis” using Ukrainian cities and civilians as “human shields.”
Video from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, and other cities show Russian bombardment and airstrikes on residential areas. One strike on an apartment building in the besieged northern city of Chernihiv on Thursday took more than 30 lives, according to Ukrainian officials.
Putin suggested in the speech that he, as embodiment of the state, was open to many nationalities in Russia, under his control, as he lauded the sacrifices of non-Russian ethnic soldiers in the war that Russia started.
“I’m a Russian person, but when I see examples of such heroism I want to say that I’m Dagestani, I’m a Chechen, Ingush, Tatar, Jewish.”
Throughout all this, Ukrainians have poured out their rage in social media posts as they see gyms where they used to work out, schools that they sent their children to, and their workplaces go up in flames.
Other Ukrainians are participating in crash courses on how to make molotov cocktails, or have joined the territorial defense battalions — a civil defense effort.
“Our soldiers and officers are trying to prevent civilian casualties and have themselves borne losses,” Putin said.