Russian President Vladimir Putin, who seeks to bring anti-American sentiment to Europe and the world, has once again attacked the United States on Friday, calling it a fading force that treats its allies as colonies, and said the West was lying about accusing economic your problems in the war in Ukraine.
“We all hear about Putin’s so-called inflation in the West,” he said. Putin said in the church “St. St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual business conference once known as Russia Davos, seems to be about President Biden’s efforts to blame Russian aggression for what he calls “Putin’s rising prices” to the detriment of American consumers.
“When I see this, I always think: who is this for, this nonsense?” Putin said. “For someone who doesn’t know how to read or write.”
Mr. Putin said as the European Commission formally recommended on Friday that Ukraine be granted candidate status for EU membership, the first step in a long and difficult path that may not have an immediate impact on the war, but could give the country a symbolic moral boost.
The commission, the EU’s executive body, also recommended candidate status for Moldova – which applied for membership shortly after Ukraine over fears of Russian threats in the region – but not for neighboring Georgia, which was deemed unprepared for EU membership.
“We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, which opened Friday’s meeting of EU commissioners in Brussels wearing a blue shirt and yellow blazer, Ukraine’s national colors. “We want them to live the European dream with us.”
Ukraine’s accession to the bloc could take years. The European Commission has made Ukraine’s candidate status subject to seven major changes in the country’s judiciary and government. Even as it fights the Russian military, Ukraine will have to guarantee an independent judiciary, eliminate high-level corruption, pass media laws, limit the influence of oligarchs and improve legislation on money laundering and minority protection, the commission said. .
In a sense, the war seems to have eased these tasks. The status of the oligarchs declined sharply as some fled and others lost assets and revenues in the fighting, while the economy became more dependent on foreign aid than on oligarch-dominated exports of goods. The security services, once partly controlled behind the scenes by these business titans, have consolidated their positions as institutions defending the country as a whole, rather than business interests.
In other respects, the war created new obstacles to Ukraine’s European aspirations beyond the obvious threat of Russian conquest. Under martial law, opposition television stations were excluded from the national cable system. If the war and martial law continue for months or years, it is unlikely that regular elections will be held.
You better understand the Russia-Ukraine war
“The government deserves only applause for winning Ukraine’s long-awaited EU bid,” Vladimir Ariev, a member of the Ukrainian parliament from the opposition European Solidarity party, said in an interview. “But we must maintain our development in a democratic way, otherwise we may lose our candidate status.”
The final decision on Moldova and Ukraine becoming official candidates for EU membership will be made by European Union leaders in Brussels next week. The commission said it would assess Ukraine’s progress at the end of the year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the commission’s recommendation, saying it would help his country repel Russia. “This is the first step on the road to EU membership, which will certainly bring us closer to victory,” he said wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Putin’s remarks to the economic forum were delayed by more than an hour after the Kremlin cited “large-scale” widespread cyberattacks denying service to the conference’s computer systems. The cyberattack came after Ukraine’s IT army, a “hacktivist” group behind previous attacks on Russian websites, targeted the event.
Mr. Putin has been on the scene for more than three hours, his longest public appearance since ordering the February invasion of Ukraine. But he did little to clarify his military goals, repeating his description of Ukrainian territory as historically belonging to Russia, avoiding even more hostile rhetoric from other Russian officials.
“Only the people who live there will determine their future,” he said. Putin spoke of the territory in eastern Ukraine that Russia is occupying, leaving open the question of whether he will seek to annex it. “And we will respect their every choice.”
Ukrainian officials have vehemently rejected the legitimacy of any alleged referendums organized by the Kremlin and its proxies.
CEOs of Western companies with blue chips flocked to St. Louis. St. Petersburg Conference, but this year the guests from Europe and the United States were few. Instead, a small delegation from the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan appeared in the headlines of the Russian media, while the leaders of Egypt and China recorded video congratulations, which were released in plenary after Mr. Putin’s speech.
But even during the session, which appears to be aimed at highlighting Russia’s global ties despite its Western isolation, the boundaries of its friendships have become apparent. Mr. Putin shared the scene with President Kasim-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic that a close ally of Russia but said he would not violate Western sanctions against Russia.
Asked about his attitude to what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, Mr. Tokayev chose his words carefully, refusing to offer any support. He said that as with the Russian-backed breakaway enclaves in Georgia, Kazakhstan would not recognize the “quasi-state territories” that Russia maintains in eastern Ukraine.
Mr. Putin, calm and often smiling, did not look like a wartime president. Instead, he focused on the economy, alternating the idea that Russia could easily replace Western imports and investments, and the claim that the Russians could temporarily do without such conveniences.
When the presenter of the session, the executive director of the Russian state television Margarita Simonyan, introduced Mr. Putin with a Russian juice box that was white due to a shortage of imported ink, he said such details should be the least of people’s concerns.
“What is most important to us?” Putin asked. “To be independent, sovereign and to guarantee our future development now for future generations? Or should I have a package today?
Mr. Putin spent most of the session promoting the idea that Russia could still thrive despite Western sanctions. He promised environmental and regulatory reforms – such as less frequent closure of businessmen by corrupt officials – as well as government initiatives to support Russian companies.
“Russia is entering an approaching era as a powerful, sovereign state,” he said. Putin said. “We will certainly take advantage of the colossal new opportunities that this era presents to us and we will become even stronger.”
Referring to the European Union’s sanctions against Russia, Mr Putin claims that the bloc acted on orders from Washington, despite the consequences for its own economy. “The European Union has completely lost its political sovereignty. Putin said.
But he said Russia would not mind Ukraine joining the bloc. The EU is “not a military organization” like NATO, he said, and it is “each country’s sovereign decision” whether to seek to join it.
“We have never been against this – we have always been against military expansion on Ukrainian territory, because it threatens our security.” Putin said. “But when it comes to economic integration, please, for God’s sake, it’s their choice.”
Russia actually opposed a trade agreement with the European Union that Ukraine negotiated in 2013. Ukraine then dropped the pending deal under Russian pressure, a move that sparked 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 paid his second visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday, a day after the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania met there.
After recently surviving a vote of no confidence among his own deputies, Mr. Johnson may have hoped that the visit would increase his popularity. He promised a new aid package with the potential to train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days.
Britain, Mr Johnson told a news conference that this would help the Ukrainian military “to do what I believe Ukrainians long for, which is to drive the aggressor out of Ukraine”.
The reporting was contributed by Matina Stevis-Gridnef, Alexander Chubko, Adam Satariano, Stephen’s Castle, Tess Felder, Monica Pronchukand Dan Bilefski.