A combative Russian President Vladimir Putin accused an “arrogant” West of treating other countries like colonies and imposing “stupid” sanctions on his nation as part of what he described Friday as economic “blitzkrieg.”
Addressing the 25th annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a showcase event being held this year with almost no Western participation, Putin repeatedly emphasized Russia’s strength and sovereignty in the face of Western hostility.
“We are strong people and can cope with any challenge,” the Kremlin strongman said. “Like our ancestors, we will solve any problem, the entire thousand-year history of our country speaks of this.”
Putin singled out the US as Russia’s chief oppressor, arguing that the global superpower considered itself “God’s emissary on Earth,” and viewed others all nations as its “colonies” and the people living there as “second-class citizens” who could be crushed economically if they dared resist.
“This is the nature of the current fit of Russophobia in the West, and the mindless, and I’d say, stupid sanctions against Russia,” he said.
Putin argued in his take-no-prisoners keynote address that Western sanctions were founded on a false premise that Russia had no economic sovereignty.
“Their calculation was clear: to crush the Russian economy by ruthlessly destroying business ties, yanking companies from the Russian market, freezing national assets, striking manufacturing and finances, and the people’s living standards, but they failed.
“It has not worked. Russian entrepreneurs and government entities worked together in a professional manner, citizens have shown cooperation and responsibility. Step by step, we are normalizing the economic situation,” the president boasted.
Putin spoke at a podium for more than an hour and showed no outward signs of being unwell, unlike during recent public appearances when he was observed gripping a table, or shaking uncontrollably.
The 69-year-old Russian leader drew enthusiastic applause from the audience when he reaffirmed his determination to continue the “special military operation” in Ukraine, which he argued was “forced and necessary” because of foreign threats.
He said the main aim of the invasion was to defend “our” people in the majority Russian-speaking Donbas region of eastern Ukraine — a justification that Kyiv and the West dismiss as a baseless pretext for a campaign that has already led to the occupation of parts of southern Ukraine far beyond the contested area.
In a speech that lasted well over an hour, Putin said the Russian soldiers in the Donbas were also fighting to defend Russia’s own “rights to secure development.”
“The West has fundamentally refused to fulfil its earlier obligations, it turned out to be simply impossible to reach any new agreements with it,” Putin said.
He called the campaign the action of a “sovereign country that has the right to defend its security,” and accused the West not only of whipping up anti-Russia feeling but also of “active military appropriation of Ukrainian territory.”
Washington and its allies were trying to “change the course of history,” he said.
Shortly before Putin was due to begin speaking, the Kremlin announced that a “denial of service” cyber attack had disabled the accreditation and admission systems of the conference, forcing him to delay the scheduled start of his speech by an hour.
Putin said the EU could lose more than $400 billion this year due to the sanctions, which he said would rebound on those who had imposed them.
He dismissed suggestions that Russia was responsible for a sharp rise in global prices of basic food, saying that a failure to export Ukrainian wheat or corn “doesn’t change the weather.”
He said Russia was ready to guarantee the transit of ships exporting Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea, but that Ukraine had five or six other ways to export its grain, through Belarus, Poland or Romania.
Ukraine has been using alternative road, rail and river routes to try to get around the closure notably of Odessa, its main deep-sea port, for fear of Russian attack.
With Post wires