President Vladimir Putin struck a defiant note as he vowed that Russia’s armed forces would receive unlimited support, that nuclear weapons were in a state of “combat readiness”, and a new hypersonic missile would soon enter service.
“We have no funding restrictions. The country and the government are providing everything that the army asks for,” he said in an address to the ministry of defence staff in Moscow on Wednesday.
The president added that Russia’s nuclear arsenal would be maintained and ready for action.
“We will continue to maintain combat readiness and improve the combat readiness of the nuclear triad,” he said. “This is the main guarantor of preserving our sovereignty and territorial integrity, strategic parity, and overall balance of power in the world.”
Mr Putin further claimed that the RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile – dubbed ‘Satan II’ – would be available “in the near future”.
The missile is said to be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads over a range of more than 10,000km faster than the speed of sound.
The Russian leader said the war in Ukraine, now in its 10th month after incurring tens of thousands of losses on both sides, was a “common tragedy”, but blamed Western powers.
“What is happening is of course a tragedy, our common tragedy, but it is not a result of our policy,” Mr Putin said.
“On the contrary, it’s the result of the policy of other countries, third countries, who have always striven for this, the disintegration of the Russian world. To a certain extent they succeeded, and pushed us to the line where we are now.”
Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, also addressed the ministry’s staff. He announced the army would expand from one million to 1.5 million soldiers, and proposed raising the age for mandatory military service from 27 to 30.
The speeches took place as Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, flew to Washington DC for his first foreign trip since the war began in February. The trip was trailed as a mission to secure more weapons, with the US announcing that a battery of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles would be provided to Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the supply of advanced Western weapons “leads to an aggravation of the conflict and, in fact, does not bode well for Ukraine”.
Russian military bloggers attacked the Ukrainian leader and suggested the trip to the US was a desperate move.
“Zelensky is expected to thank the US for billions of dollars in aid, as well as ask for more funding,” wrote popular Telegram channel Patrol. “This comes against the backdrop of information being circulated by Ukraine’s security services about a possible Russian offensive on Kyiv.”
“Did Zelensky decide to flee in advance or did his masters call for a report?”
“This is pure PR and political technology,” wrote Alexander Grishin, a columnist at Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. “Zelensky will return to Kyiv in the rays of additional glory, in the halo of the ‘earner and breadwinner’ of the country. So that everyone forgets who ruined this country.”
But other partisans on the Russian side grudgingly praised Ukraine’s president for his energetic efforts to represent his country, citing his recent trip to the frontline battleground of Bakhmut.
“Hate him or not it must be admitted that so far not a single Russian general visited the front line, not to mention Putin,” wrote blogger Zoka.