“When it won the Cold War, the United States declared itself God’s own representatives on earth, people who have no responsibilities – only interests. It declared those interests sacred. Now it is a one-way traffic, which makes the world unstable,” Putin said. told the audience.
The high-profile speech was delayed for more than 90 minutes due to a “massive” cyberattack. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on an impromptu conference call that the speech was postponed due to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on conference systems.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. The Ukrainian IT Army, a hacker collective, named the St. Petersburg Forum as a target earlier this week on its Telegram channel.
Putin’s speech at the annual conference, one of his most important speeches since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine nearly four months ago, was seen as an opportunity for the world to get a glimpse of his thinking.
Once the Russian president took the stage in the western Russian city, he wasted no time in banter and launched straight into attacks on the United States and its allies.
“They live alone in the past under their own delusions… They think… they won and then everything else is a colony, a backyard. And the people who live there are second-class citizens” , he added. said, adding that Russia’s “special operation” – the phrase the Russian government uses to describe its war on Ukraine – has become “a lifeline for the West to blame all problems on the Russia”.
After accusing Western countries of blaming Russia for their problems, Putin tried to blame the rise in food prices on “the US administration and the euro bureaucracy”.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said last week that food was now part of the Kremlin’s “arsenal of terror”.
The longtime Russian leader also blamed the West for trying to harm Russia’s economy, calling the sanctions against Moscow “crazy” and “reckless”.
“Their intention is clear to crush the Russian economy by breaking the chain of supply chains, freezing national assets and attacking living standards, but they have not succeeded,” he added. . “It didn’t work out. Russian businessmen gathered together working diligently, conscientiously and step by step we are normalizing the economic situation.”
Putin says Russia is ‘forced’ into Ukraine conflict
Speaking about his war with Ukraine on Friday, Putin went straight to his propaganda playbook, saying Russia had been “forced” into the conflict.
He called the invasion “a decision of a sovereign country that has the unconditional right…to defend its security.”
“A decision aimed at protecting our citizens, the inhabitants of the People’s Republics of Donbass, who for eight years were subjected to genocide by the Kyiv regime and neo-Nazis who received full protection from the West,” he said. he declares.
The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian authorities of discriminating against ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the regions, a charge Kyiv has denied. As of 2019, Russian passports were offered to residents of both entities.
Finally, at the end of February, Putin announced that he would recognize them as independent, a decision considered the first salvo of the war.
He said on Friday that Russian soldiers and separatists were “fighting to defend their people” in the Donbass and the right to “reject any attempt to impose pseudo values of dehumanization and moral degradation from outside.”
No country other than Russia recognizes the two as independent. Ukraine and the rest of the international community consider the territories to be under Russian occupation.
The European Commission announced on Friday that it is recommending Ukraine and neighboring Moldova as EU candidate countries, with commission head Ursula von der Leyen saying Ukrainians are “ready to die” for the EU prospect.
Speaking of the European Union on Friday, Putin said the bloc had “lost its sovereignty”.
“The European Union has totally lost its sovereignty, and its elites are dancing to someone else’s music, harming their own people. The real interests of Europeans and European companies are being totally ignored and brushed aside,” he said. he declared.
He then added that Russia had “nothing against” Ukraine’s EU membership.
“The EU is not a military-political bloc, unlike NATO, so we have always said and I have always said that our position here is consistent, understandable, we have nothing against it,” said Putin during a round table after his speech.
“It is the sovereign decision of any country whether or not to join economic associations, and it is up to that economic association whether or not to accept new states as members. let the EU countries decide for themselves. Whether it is for the benefit or detriment of Ukraine is also their business,” he said.
CNN’s Anna Chernova, Fred Pleitgen, Zahra Ullah, Uliana Pavlova, Niamh Kennedy, Amy Cassidy and Sean Lyngaas contributed reporting.