Russian Ukraine talks are at a 'dead end' - Putin

"We didn't have a choice. It was the right decision," he said, joined by Belarusian President Lukashenko, on the 61st anniversary of the first manned space flight.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the construction site of the Amur launch complex for Angara rockets at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Region, Russia April 12, 2022. (photo credit: SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the construction site of the Amur launch complex for Angara rockets at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Region, Russia April 12, 2022.
(photo credit: SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)

Peace talks at dead end

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday peace talks with Ukraine had hit a dead end, using his first public comments on the conflict in more than a week to vow his troops would win and to goad the West for failing to bring Moscow to heel.

In the strongest signal to date that the war will grind on for longer, Putin said Kyiv had derailed peace talks by staging what he said were fake claims of Russian war crimes and by demanding security guarantees to cover the whole of Ukraine.

"We have again returned to a dead-end situation for us," Putin, Russia's paramount leader since 1999, told a news briefing during a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome 3,450 miles (5,550 km) east of Moscow.

Putin defends the Russian assault on Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin defended Russia's assault on Ukraine in a rare public appearance on Tuesday, the first time he has addressed the conflict since Moscow withdrew its forces from northern Ukraine after they were halted at the gates of Kyiv.

State television showed Putin visiting the Vostochny space base in Russia's Far East, accompanied by his ally, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, to mark the anniversary of the Soviet success in launching the first manned space flight.

Asked by Russian space agency workers if the operation in Ukraine would achieve its goals, Putin said: "Absolutely. I don't have any doubt at all."

"Its goals are absolutely clear and noble," Putin said. "We didn't have a choice. It was the right decision."

Putin said Russia's main aims were to protect the Russian-speaking people of Donbas in eastern Ukraine and to end Ukraine's position as a center of nationalistic anti-Russian feeling.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Director General of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin visit the assembly room for rockets at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Region, Russia April 12, 2022. (credit: SPUTNIK/EVGENY BIYATOV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS) Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Director General of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin visit the assembly room for rockets at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Region, Russia April 12, 2022. (credit: SPUTNIK/EVGENY BIYATOV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)

Putin, who had been ubiquitous on Russian television in the early days of the war, had largely retreated from public view since Moscow pulled its forces out of northern Ukraine this month.

His only public appearance in the past week was at the funeral of a nationalist lawmaker, where he gave brief remarks and did not directly address the war. On Monday he met the visiting chancellor of Austria at a country residence outside Moscow but no images of that meeting were released.

The West casts Putin's war as a land grab of a sovereign country. Putin calls it a "special military operation" to disarm Russia's neighbor, describing Ukraine as a puppet of the United States.

Putin said Russia had no choice but to fight because it had to defend the Russian speakers of eastern Ukraine and prevent its former Soviet neighbor from becoming an anti-Russian springboard for Moscow's enemies.

Putin dismissed the West's sanctions, which have tipped Russia towards its worst recession since the years following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, as a failure.

"That Blitzkrieg on which our foes were counting did not work," Putin said. "The United States is ready to fight with Russia until the last Ukrainian - that is the way it is."

In Tuesday's remarks, he appeared to draw an analogy between Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first space flight 61 years ago and Russia's defiance of Western economic sanctions today.

"The sanctions were total, the isolation was complete but the Soviet Union was still first in space," said Putin, 69, recalling his own wonderment as a schoolboy learning of the achievement.

"We don't intend to be isolated," Putin said. "It is impossible to severely isolate anyone in the modern world - especially such a vast country as Russia."

Lukashenko also dismissed the impact of sanctions: "Why on earth are we getting so worried about these sanctions?" he asked.

Russia's Cold War-era space successes, especially Gagarin's flight and the 1957 launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, were depicted by Soviet leaders as proof of their system's superiority.

Last year, Russia's nominal GDP was just $1.6 trillion - smaller than Italy's - and only around 7% of the $22.9 trillion U.S. economy. Russia's economy is on track to contract by more than 10% in 2022, the worst since the years following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin said on Tuesday.