He repeated an assertion that Ukraine could detonate a “dirty bomb” laced with radioactive material to frame Moscow — an allegation dismissed by Kyiv and the West as false and without evidence.
A suggestion by Kyiv that the Russian charge might mean Moscow plans to detonate such a device itself was false, he said.
“We don’t need to do that. There would be no sense whatsoever in doing that,” Putin said, adding that the Kremlin had responded to what it felt was nuclear blackmail by the West.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered the biggest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in the depths of the Cold War when the Soviet Union and the United States came closest to nuclear war.
Asked about a potential nuclear escalation around Ukraine, Putin said the danger of nuclear weapons would exist as long as nuclear weapons existed.
But he said Russia’s military doctrine was defensive and, asked about the Cuban Missile crisis, quipped that he had no desire to be in the place of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader who, along with John F. Kennedy, took the world to the brink of nuclear war before defusing the situation.
“No way. No, I can’t imagine myself in the role of Khrushchev,” Putin said.
Putin quoted a 1978 Harvard lecture by Russian dissident and novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who launched a frontal assault on Western civilisation, decrying the hollow materialism and “the blindness of superiority” of the West.
“Power over the world is what the so-called West has put on the line in its game — but the game is dangerous, bloody and I would say dirty,” said Putin. “The sower of the wind, as they say, will reap the storm.”
“I have always believed and believe in common sense so I am convinced that sooner or later the new centres of the multipolar world order and the West will have to start an equal conversation about the future we share — and the earlier the better,” Putin said.
He cast the conflict in Ukraine as a battle between the West and Russia for the fate of the second largest Eastern Slav country which he said had ended in tragedy for Kyiv.
Putin said he thought constantly of Russian casualties in Ukraine, but avoided getting into detail about what the West says are huge losses. But only Russia could guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine, he said.
Ultimately, Putin said, the West would have to talk to Russia and other major powers about the future of the world.