The military operation Russia started last February was meant to "stop the war" in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, that started in 2014, said President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
"Everything we are doing today, including the special military operation (in Ukraine), is an attempt to stop this war. That's the sense of our operation. And to protect our people who live there, in these territories," he told an event in Saint Petersburg marking the 80th anniversary of breaking the Siege of Leningrad, which lasted almost 872 days and took lives of over 1.5 million people.
Putin said full-scale combat activities in Donbas have not stopped since 2014, adding that events started with the “coup” in the capital Kyiv which saw President Viktor Yanukovych overthrown and the opposition come to power.
"We endured for a long time, tried to negotiate for a long time. As it turns out now, we were simply led by the nose, deceived. ... We have done everything possible to resolve this situation by peaceful means. Now it has become obvious that by definition it was impossible," he said.
In March 2014, Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, in a move denounced by the UN General Assembly, European Union, US, and Türkiye.
2014 also saw the start of a Russian-backed conflict in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, including Donbas, which many see as a precursor to the nearly year-old current Ukraine war.
Putin said former European leaders openly say Ukraine "was preparing to turn this whole conflict into an acute and hot phase."
Putin also condemned Ukraine's crackdown on the Orthodox Church, saying "they will not get away with it."
Ukrainian authorities have been recently raided establishments of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, accusing it of supporting Russia and cooperating with it.
"It is absolutely necessary to record what they are doing, especially with the civilian population. And we will do it," said Putin.
Putin said one of the forms of the Western pressure on Russia is voting against condemnation of the “Nazi ideology” at the UN.
"Who can be against recognizing the glorification of Nazism as a crime?" he asked.
Since the start of the war last Feb. 24, Putin has cited what he calls “de-Nazification” of Ukraine as a justification.
The president also said representatives of many European countries took part and committed crimes in the World War II siege of Leningrad, but Russia did not speak about it to avoid a deterioration of relations with them.
He called the Siege of Leningrad a "genocide," emphasizing the importance of recognizing it as such at the global level.
Putin urged preserving the historical memory of the siege and passing it down to future generations, as what is happening to Russia now, happened before – in 1812 Napoleon united Europe against Russia, and in 1941-1945 all continental Europe was taken under control by Adolf Hitler and directed against Russia, he said.
"The historical memory must be preserved precisely so that such tragedies that our people experienced during the Great Patriotic War (World War II) will never be repeated," he said.
Source: Anadolu Agency