During a speech marking the 61st anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human in space, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s goals in Ukraine are “noble”.
“The goals of the ‘special operation’ to protect the Donbas will be achieved, they are noble,” Putin stated.
"On the one hand, we are helping and saving people, and on the other, we are simply taking measures to ensure the security of Russia itself," Putin exclaimed.
He also noted that a clash between Russia and Ukraine was “inevitable. It was only a matter of time.”
The Kremlin has accused Kyiv of committing genocide against Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine without providing evidence. Many experts say such an accusation is blatantly false.
Russia has faced widespread condemnation for indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets throughout Ukraine. Many world leaders have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes, including the use of cluster munitions on residential buildings.
“During the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine the Air Force of the Russian Federation is acting courageously, competently, effectively and efficiently," Putin explained during his public appearance on Tuesday.
The Russian President also spoke of the international sanctions that have been placed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Marking the occasion of Gagarin’s first flight into space, Putin compared the current sanctions with those against the Soviet Union in 1961.
"The sanctions were total, the isolation was complete but the Soviet Union was still first in space," Putin said.
Accompanying Putin was his Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr Lukashenko, who dismissed the effect of western sanctions. "Why an earth are we getting so worried about these sanctions?" Lukashenko asked.
Economists predict western sanctions on Russia will lead the country’s economy to contract by between 8.5% and 15% this year.