TOP STORIES Defiant Putin says Russia will prosper without the West

Defiant Putin says Russia will prosper without the West


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Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, seeking to rally anti-American sentiment in Europe and around the world, on Friday again lashed out at the United States, calling it a fading power that treats its allies like colonies, and said the West was falsely accusing the United States of their economic troubles war in Ukraine.

“We all hear about the so-called Putin inflation in the West,” Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual business conference once known as “Russian Davos.” aggression over what he calls “Putin’s price hikes” that hurt American consumers.

“When I see this, I always think: who is this stupidity meant for?” Putin said. “For those who can’t read and write.”

Mr Putin spoke on Friday as the European Commission formally recommended granting Ukraine candidate status for European Union membership, the first step in a long and difficult journey that may not have an immediate impact on the war but could give the country a token boost. morale.

The Commission, the EU’s executive arm, also recommended candidate status for Moldova, which applied for membership shortly after Ukraine, fueled by fears of Russian threats in the region, but not for neighboring Georgia, which was considered unprepared for an EU candidate.

“We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for a European perspective,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, who opened Friday’s meeting of European commissioners in Brussels in a blue shirt and yellow blazer, Ukraine’s national colors. “We want them to live the European dream with us.”

Ukraine’s entry into the bloc could take years. The European Commission has made the status of Ukraine’s candidate dependent on seven major changes in the country’s judiciary and government. Even at war with the Russian military, Ukraine will need to guarantee an independent judiciary, root out high-level corruption, enact media laws, limit the influence of oligarchs, and improve money-laundering and minority protection laws, the commission said.

In a sense, the war made these tasks easier. The status of the oligarchs has plummeted as some have fled and others have lost assets and income in the fighting, and the economy has become more dependent on foreign aid than the export of oligarch-dominated goods. The security services, once partly controlled behind the scenes by these business titans, have solidified their position as institutions protecting the country as a whole, not business interests.

In other words, the war created new obstacles to Ukraine’s European aspirations, in addition to the obvious threat of Russian conquest of the country. Under martial law, opposition TV channels were excluded from the national cable system. If war and martial law continue for months or years, regular elections are unlikely to take place.

“The government deserves nothing but applause” for securing Ukraine’s long-awaited admission as an EU candidate, Volodymyr Ariyev, a member of the Ukrainian parliament from the opposition European Solidarity party, said in an interview. “But we need to support our development in a democratic way, otherwise we may lose our candidate status.”

The final decision to make Moldova and Ukraine official candidates for EU membership will be made by EU leaders in Brussels next week. The commission said it would evaluate Ukraine’s progress at the end of the year.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the commission’s recommendation, saying it would help his country prevent an attack on Russia. “This is the first step towards EU membership, which will certainly bring our Victory closer,” he said. tweeted.

Mr. Putin’s speech at the economic forum was delayed by more than an hour after the Kremlin cited “large-scale” distributed denial-of-service cyberattacks on the conference’s computer systems. The cyberattack comes after Ukraine’s IT Army, the “hacktivist” group behind previous attacks on Russian websites, marked the event as a target.

Mr. Putin was on stage for more than three hours, his longest public appearance since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February. But he did little to clarify the aims of his war, reiterating his description of Ukrainian territory as historically Russian while avoiding even more hostile rhetoric from other Russian officials.

“Only the people who live there will determine their future,” Putin said of the territory in eastern Ukraine that Russia is seizing, leaving open the question of whether he would seek to annex it. “And we will respect any choice they make.”

Ukrainian officials vehemently reject the legitimacy of any alleged referenda orchestrated by the Kremlin and its puppets.

Previously, the heads of the largest Western companies flocked to the St. Petersburg conference, but this year there were few guests from Europe and the USA. Instead, a small delegation from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan made headlines in the Russian media, and the leaders of Egypt and China recorded video greetings that were shown at the plenary after Mr. Putin’s speech.

But even in a session that seemed intended to highlight Russia’s global ties despite its Western isolation, the limits of its friendship became clear. Mr. Putin shared the stage with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a former Soviet republic that was a close ally of Russia but said it would not violate Western sanctions against Russia.

When asked about his views on what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, Mr. Tokayev chose his words carefully, refusing to lend any support. He said that, as with the Russian-backed breakaway enclaves of Georgia, Kazakhstan does not recognize “quasi-state territories” that Russia maintains in eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Putin, relaxed and often smiling, did not come across as a wartime president. Instead, he focused on the economy, alternating between the idea that Russia could easily replace Western imports and investment and the claim that Russians could temporarily do without such amenities.

When the session host, Russian state television chief Margarita Simonyan, presented Putin with a box of Russian juice that was white due to a shortage of imported ink, he said such details should be the last thing people should worry about.

“What matters most to us?” Mr Putin asked. “To be independent, sovereign and secure our future development now for the next generations? Or have a package today?”

Mr. Putin spent much of the session promoting the idea that Russia could still thrive despite Western sanctions. He promised environmental and regulatory reforms, such as making corrupt officials jail less businessmen, and government initiatives to support Russian companies.

“Russia is entering the coming era of a powerful, sovereign power,” Putin said. “We will definitely take advantage of the new, colossal opportunities that this era opens up for us and become even stronger.”

Speaking of European Union sanctions against Russia, Mr. Putin said the bloc acted on Washington’s orders, despite the consequences for its own economy. “The European Union has completely lost its political sovereignty,” Mr. Putin said.

But he said that Russia would have nothing against Ukraine joining the bloc. The EU is “not a military organization” like NATO, he said, and it is “the sovereign decision of any country” whether to seek to join it.

“We have never been against it – we have always been against military expansion into the territory of Ukraine, because it threatens our security,” Putin said. “And as for economic integration, please, for God’s sake, it’s their choice.”

In fact, Russia opposed the trade agreement with the European Union, which Ukraine negotiated in 2013. Then Ukraine, under pressure from Russia, backed out of the upcoming deal, sparking a pro-Western uprising in the country the following year.

In a surprise move to show further solidarity with Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his second visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday, a day after the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania met there.

Having survived a recent no-confidence vote by MPs, Mr. Johnson may have hoped the visit would boost his popularity. He promised a new aid package with the ability to train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days.

The UK, Mr Johnson said at a press conference, will help the Ukrainian military “do what I think the Ukrainians want, which is to drive the aggressor out of Ukraine.”

The report has been provided Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Oleksandr Chubko, Adam Satariano, Stephen Castle, Tess Felder, Monika Pronchukas well as Dan Bilefsky.

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