Speaking sarcastically over a drink, he said international condemnation of the strikes “doesn’t prevent us from fulfilling our military objectives.”
According to the United Nations, Russia extrajudicially killed 441 civilians at the beginning of the war in Kiev.
Since early October, Moscow has been shelling energy and infrastructure sites across Ukraine, causing power outages and leaving entire neighborhoods without water, electricity and, in some cases, heat as freezing winter temperatures descend.
Ukrainian officials and some Western leaders have characterized Moscow’s actions as potential war crimes because of their impact on civilians. The Kremlin insists the bombings have a military purpose, but Putin dismissed them as revenge in a speech on Thursday.
The Russian president has accused Kiev of provoking the strikes, in particular the attack on the Crimean bridge in early October – a $4 billion symbol of Putin’s imperial ambitions in Ukraine, linking Crimea to mainland Russia.
Kyiv has not officially claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the incident has been widely celebrated in Ukraine, and officials have privately acknowledged the role of Ukrainian intelligence services.
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“Who hit the Crimean bridge?” Putin asked. “Who blew up the power lines of the Kursk nuclear power plant?”
Putin also accused the world of keeping silent over Ukraine’s brutal treatment of civilians in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donetsk region, even though it was Russia that sparked a separatist war there in 2014.
“Who is not giving water to Donetsk,” asked Putin. “Not providing water to a city of 1 million people is genocide”.
Since Moscow’s attacks on infrastructure began, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on citizens to cut power and take shelter during airstrikes.
“To get out of this winter, we need to help each other and take care of each other more than ever,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram on Thursday. “We need to be more resilient and united than ever to come out of winter.”