Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that his country’s military operations in Ukraine were going according to plan, and alleged that Ukrainian forces were using human shields, and that “foreign mercenaries” from the Middle East were fighting Russian troops on the ground.
“I want to say that the special military operation is going strictly according to schedule, according to plan. All the tasks that have been set are being successfully resolved,” Putin said in an address to the Russian Security Council. “We are at war with neo-Nazis.”
Putin alleged that Ukrainian forces were holding foreign citizens hostage and using human shields, without providing any evidence to back up his claim.
“The fact that we are fighting specifically against neo-Nazis is shown by the very course of hostilities. Nationalist and neo-Nazi formations, and among them there are foreign mercenaries, including those from the Middle East, are hiding behind civilians as a human shield,” Putin said.
Putin’s statements come after Russia invaded Ukraine from three sides in a military campaign that saw hundreds injured and killed dozens of civilians according to Kyiv’s authorities.
On the Russian side, Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said on Thursday that 498 Russian soldiers were killed and 1,597 were injured so far.
Putin’s address seems aimed at disproving Western governments and intelligence agencies that Moscow’s campaign is behind schedule and suffered set backs in the face of unexpected resistance from Kyiv’s forces.