Russian army reaches 1.5 million; Vladimir Putin promises to win in Ukraine

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin described the fighting in Ukraine as a “tragedy” but vowed to continue his campaign there until targets are met, while his defense chief on Wednesday announced a plan to expand Russia’s military from 1 million to 1.5 million.
Speak at a meeting Putin Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the 1.5 million-member army should include 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers. He did not say when the increased strength would be achieved.
Shoigu also announced plans to form new military units in Western Russia to counterbalance Finland and Sweden’s plans to join NATO.
Putin ordered an unpopular mobilization of 300,000 reservists in September Russian troops in Ukraine. He has said 150,000 of them were deployed to combat zones in the neighboring country, while the rest underwent training.
In Wednesday’s speech, the Russian leader again accused the West of provoking the conflict in Ukraine as part of centuries of attempts to weaken and eventually break up Russia. Ukraine and its Western allies have rejected such rhetoric, describing the Russian attack as an unprovoked act of aggression.
“We have always regarded the Ukrainian people as brotherly, and I still think so,” Putin said on Wednesday. “What is happening is certainly a tragedy, but it is not a result of our policies.”
“For centuries, our strategic adversaries have set the goal of disintegrating and weakening our country… by viewing it as too big and a potential threat,” Putin said.
When Putin sent troops to Ukraine in February, he said the move was aimed at “demilitarizing” Ukraine and preventing the country from joining Nat0 and becoming an anti-Russian stronghold.
He has also claimed that the attack was designed to “denazify” Ukraine in order to free it from the perceived influence of radical nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, charges that Ukraine and its allies have rejected.
Putin vowed that what he called a “special military operation” would continue until his tasks are completed.
“I have no doubt that all the goals set will be achieved,” he said.

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