The president fielded questions after hosting the two-day Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg
Russian President Vladimir Putin held a press conference on Saturday evening, addressing topics ranging from national security to the global food supply.
The event took place after the conclusion of the two-day Russia-Africa Summit, attended by delegations from nearly 50 countries.
Putin’s meeting with journalists, however, was dominated by ongoing tensions with the West over Ukraine.
Moscow ready for ‘any scenario’ with NATO
Aside from the conflict with Ukraine, this month saw several non-fatal incidents in Syrian skies involving Russian aircraft and US drones, with both sides blaming each other for reckless behavior. Russia would like to avoid a direct armed confrontation with the West, but keeps the worst possible scenarios in mind, Putin said. “If someone wants it – and that’s not us – then we’re ready,” he stressed.
Putin does not directly command operation in Ukraine
According to the Russian leader, as commander-in-chief, he has been receiving regular reports about the situation of the front line and speaks with his top generals several times a day. Putin added that he can reach out to “special units” when needed. However, it would be “wrong” for the president to interfere with the military and start directly commanding the troops, he said.
Kiev running out of conscripts
The Ukrainian army is not only suffering heavy losses on the battlefield, but is struggling with manpower, Putin argued. He said that, while taking prisoners, Russian authorities discovered that Ukraine had “formed military units” made up of aircraft technicians. “What does it tell us? That their mobilization resources are depleting,” the Russian leader said. He previously noted that Kiev’s forces had lost dozens of pieces of Western armor, including German-made Leopard 2 tanks and US-supplied Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
Crimean Bridge will have additional protection from attacks
Security around the bridge, which connects Crimea with mainland Russia, will be strengthened in the wake of this month’s Ukrainian attack, which killed two people and wounded a 14-year-old girl. Russia responded with “preemptive strikes” on sites that were used to manufacture and deliver naval drones that targeted the bridge, Putin explained.
Russia is more important for global food supply than Ukraine
The share of Ukrainian grain on the world markets is less than 5%, while the share of grain from Russia is more than 20%, Putin said, adding that the amount of grain exported from Ukraine would shrink further due to Kiev’s mobilization efforts. Russia recently refused to renew the 2022 deal aimed at facilitating the deliveries of foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukraine and Russia. Moscow has since argued that Western countries failed to hold up their end of the bargain.
EU states keep blocking fertilizer shipments to developing countries
Putin noted that Russian cargo is still held up at ports of the Baltic states. Moscow is ready to deliver the fertilizer to countries in need for free, but has been barred from doing so. “Nobody can explain to us why,” he said. The Russian leader recalled that last year the country was prevented from shipping 300,000 tons of fertilizers out of EU ports.