Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary session of the 26th St Petersburg International Economic Forum. He presented his speech and then has unswered many questions. In particurar, he said:
- I recently met with our war correspondents… I said that the war in Ukraine, in its southeastern parts, was started by the Kiev regime with the support of its Western sponsors in 2014. People try to avoid this subject in the West. But I have to say that aviation, tanks and artillery were used in the northwest against Donbass. What was that if not a war? It is a war. And it has been going almost for nine years now. Then our so-called partners, our counter-partners publicly refused to settle the conflict peacefully. This forced us to use our Armed Forces in an attempt to put an end to this conflict. If someone is trying to pass the buck, these are attempts to do so by unfair means. We here know how it really started.
- We were not the ones who tried to dupe our partners. As it turned out, signing the Minsk agreements, they never meant to implement them, and they have since gone public about this, virtually making a confession. Both the Ukrainians and the Europeans have said so publicly.
- Of course we see that the Western countries are going all-out on Russia to sustain what they call a defeat on the battlefield. Indicatively, they are talking about a strategic defeat and are doing all they can to inflict it. We are fully aware of this, but we have set definite goals on the denazification and demilitarisation of these territories.
- As for demilitarization… Look, soon Ukraine will have to stop using its own hardware. There will be nothing left. Everything they are fighting with and everything they are using is being brought in from the outside. But it is impossible to fight like that indefinitely. Meanwhile, our defence industry is gaining momentum every day. We have increased military production by 2.7 times during the last year. Our production of the most critical weapons has gone up ten times and keeps increasing. Plants are working in two or three shifts, and some are busy around the clock. This proves to us that our safety margin is very big.
- What is happening with this so-called counteroffensive?.. Indeed, they have sustained very heavy losses – even more than one to ten compared to the Russian army. This is a fact. As for hardware, every day they are losing more and more hardware. As of today, the Ukrainian army has lost about 186 tanks and 418 armoured vehicles of different types. I am not talking about personnel – this is for the Defence Ministry to announce. But, let me repeat that there are no successes in any of the directions. The enemy has gained no success, as the military report.
- I have had many Jewish friends since childhood. They say: Zelensky is not a Jew but a disgrace to the Jewish people. This is not a joke or irony. Do you understand? After all, neo-Nazis, followers of Hitler, have been raised on pedestals as today’s heroes in Ukraine. The Holocaust means killing 6 million Jews, one and a half million of which were killed in Ukraine, and primarily at the hands of Bandera followers.
- I want to say that any non-market restrictions in global trade regardless of the sector are counter-productive and detrimental to the entire world economy, for the entire global trade, which means they are damaging for those who initiate such restrictions as well.
- We always side with those who exercise common sense and genuinely care about the health of the global economy and global energy markets. I am talking primarily about our partners in OPEC Plus. We make joint decisions to minimise the potential negative effects of politically motivated decisions in the economy on the global economic community and global energy markets.
- You see, in today’s world it is hard to make other countries mindlessly tow to somebody’s interests; it is practically impossible sometimes. How can you force a country with a multimillion population to say: “Don’t buy Russian grain, starve, let your people die of starvation!” Who could say this? If there is someone who can say that, some crazy man who says that, they will not listen to him, that is the problem.
- We have never been aiming to de-dollarize the Russian economy, let alone to de-dollarize the global economy or influence that process. We are not setting such goals now. The impact of any currency on the global economy directly depends on the national economic potential of the issuer of that currency. The United States is one of the world's major economies, although it is now behind the Chinese economy in terms of purchasing power parity – the Chinese economy is bigger now – but nevertheless, the United States is a great economy, and clearly, the American people need to be credited for that; they are talented and capable, and no one denies this. It is just that the current political leaders of that country are abusing their people’s trust, the trust of the American nation.
- I am saying this with full knowledge of the matter. In particular, because by pursuing momentary opportunistic political goals – it is a big question whether these goals benefit the interests of the United States – they are undermining their own influence, including in international finance. Because by weaponising the dollar – and really there is no other way to put it – they are compromising the reliability of the American currency both as a payment instrument in international trade, and as a form of savings, a reserve currency.
- It is no coincidence that Latin America has been coming up with ideas and projects for creating their own currencies, a process totally unrelated to the developments in Europe; it is no coincidence that the Arab world has long been talking about creating their own single currency, and Asia is talking about it, too. The share of international settlements in yuan is growing.
- If this trend gains momentum on exchanges, or if new oil and gas exchanges appear where transactions are not made in dollars, this is the beginning of the dollar’s end. We have nothing to do with it. They are doing it with their own hands, and this gives me every reason to believe that today's political elites are abusing the trust of the American people and are actually leading the nation to the negative consequences that I mentioned.
- Of course, NATO is becoming involved in the war in Ukraine. What are we talking about? There are deliveries of military hardware, heavy equipment. Now they are considering supplies of aircraft as well. I have already mentioned today that we are seeing attempts to mount attacks by two companies with the support of five tanks in one area. One and a half company supported by two tanks makes attempts in another area. The tanks are burning; several tanks have been destroyed, including the Leopards. Several tanks, including the Leopards, burned yesterday too. They are burning. The F-16s will be burning too, no doubt about it. But if they are located at air bases outside Ukraine and are used in hostilities, we will have to think about how and where we can hit the resources that are used against us in the hostilities. There is a serious danger of NATO’s further involvement in this armed conflict.
- As for Mr Chirac, this was a person possessing encyclopedic knowledge in the full sense of the word. Some of today’s leaders do not even have a higher education, but it is the specifics of the political system in some countries that promotes people with, let us say, limited educational training and cultural levels. Jacques Chirac is not with us anymore, he was a major political figure. I asked him once: why do US leaders behave in such a manner, act so aggressively and short-sightedly in some cases? He answered me in Russian: because they are uncultured. Direct quote.
- No matter what, we respect all our partners. I hope that the current challenges we are facing, including in the sphere of security, will lead us to an understanding that security must be equal for everyone, something we have always told our partners.
- As far as Mr Trump is concerned, a host of sanctions and restrictions on Russia were introduced during his presidency. Note that there were no grievous, tragic events in Ukraine, not even a hint of them, yet sanctions were imposed. But I do not rule out that with a different administration [in the United States], we could have achieved a peaceful settlement plan, which Ukraine and western capitals rejected unfortunately. And they announced this publicly.
- As for contacts, there are practically none. But we have never declined. If there is any desire to maintain a dialogue with us – welcome, it is not us who refuse to carry on a dialogue with them, they just shifted the focus of this dialogue to arms supplies. We will burn everything they have supplied and see what they will do next.
- I have already cited the number, around 30 percent, it is now confirmed that 30 percent of supplied heavy armoured equipment has been destroyed. Not only Bradleys and Leopards, these are overall figures. Two hundred eighteen tanks, including Leopards, and 418 armoured vehicles, with Bradleys among them, these are the numbers. But there are no doubts that this process will continue. It would have been better for them to choose another path and seek peaceful means of resolving the dispute, but it has not come to that yet. We see that they are trying to win a victory on the battlefield. Good luck. We will see the result. It did not work so far and is unlikely to.
- The attempt to damage the Kremlin, which is the residence of the President of the Russian Federation, attacks on the Belgorod Region and neighbouring regions of Russia are attempts to provoke us into taking response measures. Listen, we have destroyed five Patriot air defence systems near Kiev. Do you think it is hard for us to destroy any building or structure in the centre of Kiev? It is not. We are not doing it for several reasons... But we do have this capability, and everyone knows this and is waiting for us to start pushing buttons. There is no need for that.
- I have already said that if these attacks on our adjacent territories continue, we will consider the possibility of creating a buffer zone in the Ukrainian territory. They should know what this can lead to. We use long-range high-precision weapons against military targets, and we are succeeding in all these areas.
- It is enough to look at the destruction of weapons depots and miliary personnel, including foreign mercenaries, and at the performance of our hardware in that area. We always respond. We do not advertise our response, but it is painful, and the enemy is aware of this.
(Q.: But tactical nuclear weapons, they said, were not only effective under certain conditions, but also a valid part of nuclear deterrence. What do you think about this?) I reject this. It is certainly theoretically possible to use nuclear weapons this way. For Russia, it is possible if there is a threat to our territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty, an existential threat to the Russian state. Nuclear weapons are created to ensure our security, in the broadest sense of the word, and the existence of the Russian state. First, we see no need to use it; and second, considering this, even as a possibility, factors into lowering the threshold for the use of such weapons. This is my first point.
- The second point is that we have more such nuclear weapons than NATO countries. They know about it and never stop trying to persuade us to start nuclear reduction talks. Like hell we will, right? A popular phrase. (Laughter.) Because, putting it in the dry language of economic essays, it is our competitive advantage.
- As you know, we have been in talks with our partner in the Union State – with President Lukashenko – about deploying some of these tactical nuclear weapons to Belarusian territory. This has happened. The first nuclear warheads have been delivered to Belarus, but only the first batch. There will be more. By the end of the summer, by the end of this year, we will complete this work.
- I would like to remind everyone that the only country in the world that has used nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state is the United States, which has delivered two strikes at cities in Japan: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They thought that they had the right to do that. The precedent was created by the United States.
- President Biden is an adult person and an experienced politician. It is not my place to teach him. Let him do what he thinks necessary, and we will do what we think is in the interests of the Russian Federation and the people of Russia. And everybody will have to take this into account.
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