The decision to launch a special operation in Ukraine was a hard one to make, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with women flight crews of Russian airlines.
Putin was asked why this special operation began and whether it could have been avoided. He also explained his vision of how it should end.
"Very briefly, but I have to start from the center of the field, as they say in such cases. I said that at the beginning of the operation and I spoke about it before the decision was made. It was a hard decision, no doubt. Why? The fact is that <…> [in Ukraine] they carried out a coup, supported those who carried out the coup, <…> and this was followed with all those events in Crimea and in the south-east of Ukraine, in the Donbass, where people did not support the coup,” Putin said.
The people started showing resistance and were persecuted for that. The Kiev authorities began to conduct military operations on those territories, Putin said. There were "two punitive operations" conducted, during which the squares of Donetsk were shelled directly, but both of those campaigns failed, he said.
Afterwards, the Minsk Accords were signed, which showed a way to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, Putin said. According to him, Russia was trying to make the process develop in this direction, in order to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine and protect the interests of the people, who demanded most simple things:
However, the Ukrainian authorities announced the blockade of these territories in response, disconnected them from the banking system, food supplies, pensions and benefits, Putin said.
According to him, between 13,000 and 14,000 people were killed in the Donbas during the years of the conflict, while the civilized West preferred not to notice that.
In addition, the Kiev authorities started declaring bluntly that they were not going to comply with the Minsk agreements. On top of that, they were accusing Russia of unwillingness to implement the Minsk agreements. That was "a theater of the absurd,” Putin said.
Then they started talking about Ukraine's possible membership at NATO, he continued. In this case, other members of the alliance will have to support the country, which could spark a war between Russia and all of NATO.
"No one, but us, recognizes Crimea as Russia, and they [Ukraine] are conducting military operations in the Donbass.”
To crown it all, Ukraine raised the topic about a possibility to acquire nuclear weapons. They said that Ukraine would receive support from across the ocean.
"And from that moment on, the fate of Russia will be completely different. Because then our strategic adversaries do not even need to have intercontinental-range ballistic missiles. They would be able to keep us at gunpoint with nuclear weapons right here, and that was all,” Putin said.
It goes about an "absolutely real threat, so one of Russia's key demands is the 'demilitarization' of Ukraine, he concluded.
Putin said that Russia would consider the decision of any country to introduce a no-fly zone over Ukraine as participation in a military conflict. It does not matter, what organizations they are members of.
A few of his other quotes during the meeting:
"The guys who fight and die there are fighting for our future."
"If the Ukrainian authorities continue to do what they are doing, it will call the future of Ukrainian statehood into question, and it will be entirely their responsibility."
"In Ukraine, those who oppose military actions against Russia are shot without trial or investigation."
In Russia, there are also morons who run around with a swastika, but unlike in Ukraine, they are not members of the government."
"We do not plan to introduce martial law in Russia, there is no such need."
"Conscripts are not involved in the military operation, and we do not plan to involve them."
"It was possible to send troops only to Donbass, but then Kiev would get "endless support" from Western countries, so we decided to go the other way."
"The work to destroy Ukrainian military infrastructure is almost done."
"Russian nuclear forces were set on high alert after the head of the British Foreign Office said that NATO could be involved in the conflict."
As the Russian Foreign Ministry explained, the demilitarization of Ukraine implies that Kyiv will not have any weapons that would threaten Russia even potentially.
The Russian Ministry of Defense showed a video of the destruction of US-made M777 towed howitzers in Ukraine. The US systems were destroyed by the Russian Kub (Cube) kamikaze drone