Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday there will be peace in Ukraine when his country achieves its goals, and that those aims remain unchanged.
Two months shy of the two-year anniversary of Russia launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin reiterated that Russia is seeking “de-Nazification, de-militarization and a neutral status” of Ukraine as he gave his end-of-the-year news conference.
Russia has asserted that Ukraine’s government is heavily influenced by radical nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, which Ukraine and its Western allies have dismissed as a baseless pretext for the invasion.
Putin has also demanded that Ukraine not join the NATO alliance. NATO has repeatedly said it is up to individual countries, and not Russia, to decide whether they want to join. Russia’s invasion prompted two countries – Sweden and Finland – to launch membership bids. Finland was admitted in April while Sweden’s accession is awaiting final approval from Turkey and Hungary.
Speaking Thursday at the same time as Putin, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels that the Russian leader has shown no signs of preparing for peace.
Stoltenberg said the only way to reach a just and lasting peace in Ukraine is to convince Putin that he will not win on the battlefield, and for allies to continue to support Ukraine.
“If Putin wins in Ukraine, there is a real risk that his aggression will not end there,” Stoltenberg said.
The NATO chief welcomed what he called U.S. President Joe Biden’s “clear commitment to Ukraine” and his administration’s urgent push to provide much-needed aid to Ukraine.
Biden has proposed a security package that includes $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, but the measure has met resistance from some Republicans in Congress who are insisting on immigration and border security actions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to Washington this week to make the case directly to the president and lawmakers that the aid is vital to Ukraine’s war effort.
Ukraine’s military said Thursday that Russia attacked overnight with drones and missiles, while Russia reported Ukrainian aerial attacks targeting the Moscow area.
Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 41 of the 42 drones Russian forces launched, most of them over the Odesa region in southern Ukraine.
Oleh Kiper, the regional governor of Odesa, said on Telegram that falling debris damaged multiple buildings, including a dormitory. He said at least 11 people were injured.
Kiper said Russian forces also attacked port infrastructure in the Izmail area, located along the Danube River, destroying several warehouses.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said overnight its air defenses destroyed nine Ukrainian drones over the Moscow and Kaluga regions.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported that two of the drones were downed near Naro-Fomink, a town southwest of the Russian capital. Sobyanin said there were no reports of damage or casualties.