Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed on Wednesday he was “forced” to order a military action in Ukraine because of the Western refusal to heed Russian security demands.
Speaking at a Kremlin meeting with business people Thursday, Putin said the military action was a “forced measure” that stemmed from rising security risks for Russia.
He said that he was surprised by the West’s “intransigence” regarding Moscow’s security demands.
“I was surprised that didn’t move a millimeter on any issue,” he said. “They have left us no chance to act differently.”
Turning to Western sanctions, he said “Russia remains part of the global economy and isn’t going to hurt the system that it is part of as long as it remains there.”
“Our partners should realize that and not set a goal to push us out of the system,” he said in an apparent warning to the West.
Shortly after Putin’s comments, the Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that its ground forces have moved into Ukraine from Crimea, the first confirmation from Moscow that its ground forces have moved in.
Russia previously said only that it unleashed air and missile strikes on Ukrainian air bases, air defense batteries and other military facilities. The ministry said it has destroyed 83 Ukrainian military facilities.
For the first time since the start of the action, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov confirmed the Russian ground troops had rolled into Ukraine, saying they advanced toward the city of Kherson, northwest of Crimea.
Kherson sits on a reservoir providing the bulk of freshwater for Crimea until Ukraine cut it off with a dam in 2017 in response to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
The ministry also said that the military had achieved its goals set out for the first day of its invasion.
“All of the tasks assigned to the groups of troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for the day were successfully completed,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensnky has urged Moscow to end hostilities, adding that Russian airborne troops have been checked outside Kyiv.
“It wasn’t Ukraine that chose the path of war, but Ukraine is offering to go back to the path of peace,” he said Thursday.
He said a Russian airborne force in Hostomel airport outside Kyiv, which has a big runway, has been stopped and is being destroyed.
The Ukrainian leader said many Russian warplanes and armored vehicles were destroyed, but didn’t give numbers. He also said an unspecified number of Russian troops were captured.
He said a difficult situation is developing in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city just over 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Russian border. In the north the Russians are slowly advancing toward Chernihiv, Zelensky said.
He appealed to global leaders, saying that “if you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer strong assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door.”
A senior US official said the UN Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia in the strongest terms possible for attacking Ukraine and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces — knowing that Russia will veto the legally binding measure.
The US believes it is very important to put the resolution to a vote to underscore Russia’s international isolation, and emphasizes that the veto will be followed quickly by a resolution in the 193-member UN General Assembly where there are no vetoes, the official said Thursday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
“This is a first step in how the UN responds to this premeditated war of choice that Russia has chosen to take, and we will see action in the General Assembly in the coming days,” he said, adding that it is part of a much broader, coordinated response that includes steps the Biden administration and its allies are taking.
The resolution is drafted under Article 7 of the UN Charter, which can be enforced militarily, according to the official.