29.06.2022, Turkmenistan, Aschgabat: Wladimir Putin, Präsident von Russland, nimmt an einem Treffen am Rande des Gipfels der Anrainerstaaten des Kaspischen Meeres teil. Foto: Grigory Sysoyev/Pool Sputnik Kremlin/AP/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused NATO of “imperial ambitions”. The military alliance is trying to assert its “supremacy” through the Ukraine conflict, Putin told journalists on Wednesday in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabad, where the round of the so-called Caspian Five took place. In addition to Russia and Turkmenistan, they also include Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran.

“Ukraine and the well-being of the Ukrainian people are not the goal of the collective West and NATO, but a means of defending their own interests,” Putin said.

Russia does not see itself threatened by Putin’s words if Finland and Sweden join NATO, but will take military countermeasures. “There is nothing that would worry us about Finland and Sweden joining NATO. If you want – please,” said the Kremlin chief. But the countries would have to brace themselves for a Russian reaction.

“They need to get a clear picture of the fact that there were no threats to them before – but if troops are stationed there and infrastructure is put in place, we will have to respond in a mirrored manner and create the same threats on the territory from which we are being threatened,” Putin was quoted as saying by the Tass news agency.

“Everything was fine between us, but now there will be some tensions – that’s obvious, without a doubt, it can’t work without it.” Russia had already threatened consequences after the first plans for the two countries to join NATO.

Under the impression of the Russian attack on Ukraine, Finland and Sweden had decided to give up their decades of neutrality and join NATO. The admissions process was launched at the Alliance summit in Madrid on Wednesday. The expansion will extend Russia’s border with the alliance by more than 1,300 kilometers.

More than four months after Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine began, Putin again claimed that hostilities were going according to plan. “The work is quiet, rhythmic, the troops are moving and reaching the lines that have been set for them as milestones,” Putin said. “Everything is going according to plan,” he was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Tass.

On February 24, Russian troops invaded Ukraine from several directions. After being unable to reach the capital Kyiv due to fierce resistance from Ukrainian units, they concentrated on the Donbass industrial area in eastern Ukraine. According to Western experts, the Russian military is advancing, suffering heavy casualties and rapidly depleting its artillery shells.

Putin repeated the previous description of the goals of the “special operation”, as the Russian leadership calls the war of aggression. It is about “liberating” Donbass, “protecting” its residents and “creating conditions that would guarantee Russia’s security,” said the Russian president. NATO wanted to turn Ukraine into an “anti-Russian bridgehead,” Putin reiterated earlier justifications for the attack.

Putin declined to comment on how long the hostilities could continue. “It would be wrong to set any deadlines,” he said. More intense fighting would mean higher casualties and “the main thing we have to think about is how to save our boys’ lives.”

Putin called the Russian soldiers “heroes”. Songs and poems should be written about them and monuments should be given to them, he said.

Ukrainian and international experts have documented numerous cases of violence against civilians by Russian soldiers, such as the killing of residents in the Kiev suburb of Bucha. Moscow claims the atrocities were staged.

Recent quips at the G7 summit over the shirtless photos of Putin didn’t sit well with the Kremlin chief. Had the G7 leaders exposed themselves, it would have been a “disgusting sight,” Putin said.

The conversation Putin touched on happened at the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria on Sunday afternoon. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked whether jackets should be taken off or not in view of the high temperatures, adding: “We all have to show that we are tougher than Putin.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replied, among other things: Riding shirtless, you have to do that. He alluded to a well-known photo of Putin in such a pose.

“I don’t know how they wanted to undress, above or below the waistline. I think it would have been a disgusting sight in any case,” Putin was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Tass.