Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to the media following the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders’ summit in Samarkand on Friday. AFP
Speaking to reporters on Friday after attending a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan, Putin said the "liberation” of Ukraine's entire eastern Donbas region remained Russia’s main military goal and that he sees no need to revise it.
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"We aren’t in a rush,” the Russian leader said, adding that Moscow has only deployed volunteer soldiers to fight in Ukraine. Some hard-line politicians and military bloggers have urged the Kremlin to follow Ukraine's example and order a broad mobilization to beef up the ranks, lamenting Russia's manpower shortage.
Russia was forced to pull back its forces from large swaths of northeastern Ukraine last week after a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive. Ukraine's move to reclaim control of several Russian-occupied cities and villages marked the largest military setback for Moscow since its forces had to retreat from areas near the capital early in the war.
Vladimir Putin (right) and Narendra Modi pose for a photo shaking hands in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. AP
In his first comment on the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Putin said: "Let’s see how it develops and how it ends.”
He noted that Ukraine has tried to strike civilian infrastructure in Russia and "we so far have responded with restraint, but just yet.”
"If the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious,” Putin said.
"Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said in an apparent reference to Russian attacks earlier this week on power plants in northern Ukraine and a dam in the south. ”Let's consider those as warning strikes."
He alleged, without offering specifics, that Ukraine has attempted to launch attacks "near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants,” adding that "we will retaliate if they fail to understand that such methods are unacceptable."
Russia has reported numerous explosions and fires at civilian infrastructure in areas near Ukraine, as well munitions depots and other facilities. Ukraine has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks and refrained from commenting on others.
Vladimir Putin speaks to Xi Jinping during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Samarkand. AFP
Putin also sought Friday to assuage India’s concern about the conflict in Ukraine, telling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Moscow wants to see a quick end to the fighting and alleging that Ukrainian officials won’t negotiate.
"I know your stand on the conflict in Ukraine and the concerns that you have repeatedly voiced,” the Russian leader told Modi. "We will do all we can to end that as quickly as possible. Regrettably, the other side, the leadership of Ukraine, has rejected the negotiations process and stated that it wants to achieve its goals by military means, on the battlefield.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says it's Russia that allegedly doesn’t want to negotiate in earnest. He also has insisted on the withdrawal of Russian troops from occupied areas of Ukraine as a precondition for talks.
Putin's remarks during the talks with Modi echoed comments the Russian leader made during Thursday's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping when Putin thanked him for his government’s "balanced position” on the Ukraine war, while adding that he was ready to discuss China’s unspecified "concerns” about Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Putin said he and Xi "discussed what we should do in the current conditions to efficiently counter unlawful restrictions” imposed by the West. The European Union, the United States and other Western nations have put sanctions on Russian energy due to the war in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin (right) speaks to Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their talks on the sidelines of the summit. AP
Xi, in a statement released by his government, expressed support for Russia’s "core interests” but also interest in working together to "inject stability” into world affairs. China’s relations with Washington, Europe, Japan and India have been strained by disputes about technology, security, human rights and territory.
Zhang Lihua, an international relations expert at Tsinghua University, said the reference to stability "is mainly related to China-U.S. relations,” adding that "the United States has been using all means to suppress China, which forced China to seek cooperation with Russia."
China and India have refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine while increasing their purchases of Russian oil and gas, helping Moscow offset the financial restrictions imposed by the U.S. and its allies.
Putin also met Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss bolstering economic cooperation and regional issues, including a July deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations that allowed Ukrainian grain exports to resume from the country’s Black Sea ports.
In advance of the talks, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan bluntly warned China to avoid helping Russia evade punishment from global sanctions that have hammered the Russian economy. "We will not allow that to go forward,” he said.
Kyiv’s Western allies have shown no interest in the plan: Russia; Zelensky will join an upcoming G7 summit in Japan via an online link following an invitation from Kishida, who visited Ukraine.
Hours after the strikes, a Moscow-installed official in southern Ukraine said the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions would soon be "liberated” by Russian forces, just like the already occupied Kherson region further east.
Al Mubarak revealed that more than 1,000 private sector executives and members of the Dubai Chamber had joined the path towards reducing global emissions by half by 2030 and reaching zero emissions by 2050.
Tuesday’s weather is expected to be clear to partly cloudy with clouds appearing in the east in the afternoon and the temperature tending to rise gradually, according to the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM).
The Dubai Criminal Court sentenced an African cleaning woman to three months in jail to be followed by deportation and fined her Dhs2,000 for stealing the same amount of the fine from the handbag of her co-worker.