Russian president Vladimir Putin has claimed the West is the real “enemy” as his invasion of Ukraine approaches its second anniversary.
The former KGB operative, who is seeking re-election in March, claimed forces in western countries including the US and Britain were working to destroy “Russian statehood” – and providing weapons to Ukraine to ensure the world’s largest country suffered a “strategic defeat” on the battlefield.
While speaking to a wounded soldier at a military hospital, Putin claimed that “Ukraine itself is not our enemy”.
He added: “The point is not that they (the West) are helping our enemy. They are our enemy.
“They are solving their own problems with their hands. That is what it is all about.
“Unfortunately, this has been the case for centuries and continues to be the case today.”
Putin claimed at the start of the invasion, in late February 2022, that the objective of his “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” the government in Kyiv.
More than 315,000 Russians are believed to have been killed or wounded in the conflict since then, according to western military intelligence.
The nation is on course to suffer half a million casualties if the fighting drags on for another year according to the UK Ministry of Defence.
Analysts suggest the new rhetoric from Putin shows he is attempting to justify a long-term Russian military build up as part of an ideological struggle.
An analysis by the Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, said: “Putin’s statements likely suggest that he is preparing a long-term justification to keep forces mobilized and engaged in combat for the perpetual defense of Russia’s sovereignty against the West.”