Putin: Russia had to attack Ukraine energy sites in response to Kyiv's strikes

  • World
  • Friday, 12 Apr 2024

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to open new youth centres in Russia's regions, via video link at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia April 4, 2024. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

(Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had been obliged to launch strikes that have inflicted heavy damage on Ukrainian energy sites in response to Kyiv's attacks on Russian targets.

The Kremlin leader, quoted by Russian news agencies, was speaking to his ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, after overnight attacks destroyed a large electricity plant near Kyiv and hit power facilities in several regions of Ukraine.

The president said the strikes were part of the process of "demilitarisation" of Ukraine -- one of the objectives he cited when he sent Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

"Unfortunately, we observed a series of strikes on our energy sites recently and were obliged to respond," Putin was quoted as saying.

"The strikes on energy are linked in part with solving one of the tasks we set for ourselves, and that is demilitarisation. We believe above all that in this way we will affect Ukraine's military industrial complex and in a very direct way."

Russia, he said, had refrained from carrying out such attacks in winter "out of humanitarian considerations".

"What I mean is that we didn't want to leave social institutions without power, hospitals and the like," he said. But he said the Ukrainian strikes -- mainly on oil refineries in many different Russian regions in recent weeks -- prompted Moscow to respond.

In his comments to Lukashenko, Putin again dismissed any suggestion by Ukraine's Western allies that Russia had plans to attack any European countries beyond Ukraine.

"That is nonsense. It is necessary for the ruling circles, as we used to say, to explain and justify their expenditure on the war in Ukraine," he said.

Putin again rejected any notion of holding peace talks without Russia's participation -- Switzerland has said it will host a "world summit" on Ukraine in June but Russia said it would not take part.

Both Putin and Lukashenko agreed that the best starting point for any settlement in Ukraine was the series of talks held in Turkey in 2022 in the early weeks of the war, which broke up with no agreement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says talks on peace must be based on his plan which calls for withdrawal of Russian troops, restoration of Ukraine's 1991 post-Soviet borders and a mechanism to bring Russian to account for its actions.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sandra Maler)

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