Western sanctions ‘equivalent to declaring war’ Putin claims as he defends invasion of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has described Western sanctions on Russia as being "equivalent to declaring a war", insisting that his invasion of Ukraine was driven by a need to protect Russian speakers in the country.

Speaking to female flight attendants in comments broadcast on state television, the Russian president said Moscow wanted Ukraine to be "demilitarised", "de-nazified" and to have a neutral status.

Vladimir Putin made the comments during a visit to Aeroflot Aviation School near Moscow

He said: "These (sanctions) are methods of fighting against Russia.

"These sanctions that you can see are equivalent to declaring a war – but thankfully it has not come to an actual war but we understand what these threats are about."

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Vladimir Putin on Sky Tv


'Ukrainians have been brainwashed'

He said that everything was going to plan in Ukraine, and that the Russian army would "fulfil its aims".

He also warned that Moscow would consider any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over the country as "participation in the armed conflict".

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The Russian president insisted the operation was being carried out by professional soldiers and that no conscripts were involved in Ukraine, despite reports to the contrary.

He said: "There is not one conscript and we don't plan for there to be."

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According to various reports, around a third of the Russian army are conscripts, although it cannot be confirmed how many of those are in Ukraine.

Mr Putin also said there was no plan for martial law or the declaration of an emergency situation in Russia, saying: "There is currently no need."

It comes after the Kremlin accused the West of behaving like bandits and claimed the world is "too big" for the US and Europe to isolate a country as big as Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the West was engaged in "economic banditry" against Russia and that Moscow would respond.

He did not specify what response there would be but said it would be in line with Russian interests.

"This does not mean Russia is isolated," he told reporters on Saturday.

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Drone footage from Bucha near Ukraine's capital, Kyiv


Drone captures explosions

"The world is too big for Europe and America to isolate a country, and even more so a country as big as Russia.

"There are many more countries in the world."

Mr Peskov said that if the US imposed sanctions on Russia's energy exports then it would deliver a considerable jolt to energy markets.

The global sanctions on Russia could result in dire consequences for energy and grain importers.

The country is a leading exporter of grains and a major supplier of crude oil, metals, wood, and plastics.

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A massive fireball was captured near Chernihiv, Ukraine


Huge fireball captured in Ukraine

Companies suspending operations in Russia include Apple, Mercedes-Benz, BP, Volkswagen, clothing retailer H&M, and furnishings store IKEA.

Spain's Teatro Real, one of Europe's major opera houses, confirmed it will cancel upcoming performances by Russia's Bolshoi Ballet.

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But the sanctions appear to be doing little to deter Russian forces, as fighting continues in the northern cities of Ukraine as the invasion enters its tenth day.

Read more: Russian forces continue 'ruthless' attacks in Mariupol and other key cities as terrified citizens flee burning homes

The northeastern city of Mariupol has endured days of "relentless attacks", with residents left without power and water after Russian missiles struck critical infrastructure.

It is understood the city remains in Ukrainian hands, but British intelligence said it is "highly likely" Mariupol is surrounded by Russian forces.

Read more:
Sky News team's harrowing account of their violent ambush in Ukraine this week
'Welcome to Hell' – the message facing Russian invaders as Kyiv prepares for the fight of its life
What day nine of Russia's war tells us about what might happen next

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Russia is prepared for the third round of talks with Ukraine.

In a news briefing in Moscow with his Kyrgyz counterpart, he claimed that Kyiv is "coming up with excuses" in order to postpone the meeting.

Mr Lavrov said: "For now, we haven't received any new dates. We were prepared… from yesterday evening to conduct a third round."

He said that the "optimism" surrounding the situation has been dampened by "angry" statements made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

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