Vladimir Putin: West wants to ‘tear apart’ Russia

MOSCOW: President Putin condemned the West for trying to “rip apart” Russia and said in an interview broadcast on national television that his attack in Ukraine was aimed at “unifying the Russian people”.
Meanwhile in Kyiv, a day after deadly shelling in southern Ukraine, residents celebrate Christmas on Sunday, despite Russia’s spiritual leaders, who celebrate it on the 7th. January.
Putin has used the concept of “historic Russia” to argue that Ukrainians and Russians are one people — undermining Kyiv’s sovereignty and justifying his 10-month offensive in Ukraine .
He said that Russia’s “geopolitical rivals (are) aiming to divide Russia, historic Russia”.
“Divide and conquer, that’s what they’ve always been trying to achieve and are still trying to do,” Putin added.
“But our goal is different: it is to unite the Russian people,” he said.
Putin declared his government was acting “in the right direction… in defense of our national interests, the interests of our citizens, of our people.”
He reiterated that Moscow is ready to negotiate and appeared unfazed when asked about the new air defense system that the United States will provide Ukraine.
“Of course we will destroy it, 100 percent!” Putin said, referring to the Patriot missile battery promised to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Earlier this week, on his first trip outside Ukraine since the attacks began, Zelenskyy received a firm pledge of support from US President Joe Biden, including the most advanced air defense system in the US. Pentagon.
Western military and financial aid is crucial to Ukraine pushing back Russian troops – including from Khersonthe only regional capital held by Russia.
Despite Russia’s retreat from the city, it remained within reach of Moscow’s weapons and frequently threatened.
The Ukrainian military counted 71 attacks on the partially recaptured Kherson area on Saturday, including 41 attacks on the city.
This included deadly shelling of a busy downtown market that left 10 dead and 55 injured.
The head of the Russian-appointed Kherson region, Boris Saldo, said on Telegram that the shelling was “a heinous provocation” used by Ukraine to blame Russia.
In his daily Sunday speech, Zelenskyy condemned the Russian “terrorists” and thanked all of his compatriots – including soldiers, doctors, volunteers – who took part in defending Ukraine .
“Thank you… to everyone who came to Kherson to help. To save the wounded from the terrorist attack on Christmas. Artillery and mortar against the ordinary Kherson streets. … the monsters!” Zelensky said.
On Sunday, church bells rang throughout Kyiv as Orthodox Christians attended Christmas services, parting with Russian spiritual leaders who will mark the holiday in two weeks. .
At a ceremony in central Kyiv, devotee Olga Stanko told AFP she supported any move to distance Ukraine from Russia.
“The war has brought us so much grief,” she said. “We cannot do this with Russia, still under its influence.”
Also attending the ceremony, Olena Zakharova-Gorianska said she was delighted to be celebrating Christmas for the first time on December 25 – describing it as an obvious choice after surviving the Russian occupation in the town of Gostomel, north of Kyiv.
“I want nothing to do with the occupiers, with the enemy,” she said.
The decision by some Ukrainian churches to celebrate Christmas on December 25 highlights a deepening rift between religious leaders in Kiev and Moscow.
An Interfax-Ukraine poll shows an increasing number of people are in favor of moving the Christian holy holiday to December 25, rising from 26% in 2021 to 44% in 2022, despite 31% still oppose.
Ukraine has been under Moscow’s spiritual leadership since at least the 17th century, but part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke with Moscow in 2019 due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in the east. .
In May, the Russian-backed branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church also severed ties with Moscow.
From St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, Pope Francis called for an end to the conflict.
“May God… enlighten the minds of those who have the power to quell the thunder of weapons and put an immediate end to this senseless war!” said the Argentine pope.


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