“We hear today that they want us to be defeated on the battlefield,” Putin said, according to state media outlet RIA Novosti. “Well, what can I say? Let them try.”
He added: “We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading toward this.”
The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, which is now almost completely under Russian control, said Friday that the city of Severodonetsk is facing a “humanitarian disaster.” Critical infrastructure, including the sewage system, has been badly damaged by months of fighting, and “there is no centralized water, gas or electricity supply,” he said, adding that 80 percent of homes in the city have been damaged.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated on Thursday that he is not considering ceding territory in a potential peace deal with Russia. Ukraine’s fierce resistance to Russia has emboldened Zelensky, who has since repeatedly disparaged the idea of allowing Moscow to redraw its border and annex land it has captured during the fighting.
“Ukrainians are not ready to give up their lands as new territories of the Russian Federation,” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, shaking his head as he spoke. “This is our land. We have always said this, and we will never give it up.”
Zelensky adviser Mykhailo Podolyak recently listed Ukraine’s conditions for peace with Russia, including a cease-fire, the return of kidnapped citizens and the withdrawal of Russian troops throughout the country.
Despite Putin’s bravado, the Russian military is facing significant long-term challenges. International sanctions are hurting Moscow’s ability to replenish its arsenal, forcing Russia to devolve into a secondhand economy dependent on poor substitutes. Russia is increasingly determined to make its own goods and components — even if it means returning to policies of import substitution that yielded a vast, if globally uncompetitive, industrial complex before the fall of the Berlin Wall.