President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Western sanctions on Russia were akin to a declaration of war and warned that any attempt to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine would be tantamount to entering the conflict.
Putin reiterated that his aims in Ukraine are to defend Russian speaking communities through the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of the country so that it became neutral.
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Ukraine and Western countries have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for the invasion he launched on February 24 and have imposed a sweeping range of sanctions aimed at isolating Moscow.
“These sanctions that are being imposed are akin to a declaration of war but thank God it has not come to that,” Putin said, speaking to a group of women flight attendants at an Aeroflot training center near Moscow.
He said any attempt by another power to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine would be considered by Russia to be a step into the military conflict. NATO has rejected Kyiv’s request for a no-fly zone, on the grounds it would escalate the war beyond Ukraine.
Putin said there were no conscripts involved in the military operation, which he said was being carried out only by professional soldiers.
“There is not one conscript and we don't plan for there to be,” Putin said. “Our army will fulfil all the tasks. I don't doubt that at all. Everything is going to plan.”
Putin dismissed concerns that some sort of martial law or emergency situation could be declared in Russia. He said such a measure was imposed only when there was significant internal or external threat.
“We don’t plan to introduce any kind of special regime on Russian territory - there is currently no need,” Putin said.
His government has clamped down on protests in Russia against the war.
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