RUSSIA + UKRAINE

With the election behind him, Putin says Russian forces aim to set up a buffer zone inside Ukraine

Mar 18, 2024, 8:39 AM | Updated: Mar 19, 2024, 12:48 pm

a wrecked apartment in Ukraine is shown, Putin says Russian forces aim to set up a buffer zone insi...

Local resident Yevhen, 34, looks at his home in an apartment house damaged in 2022 heavy battles with the Russian troops in Izium, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Sunday, March 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after extending his rule in an election that stifled opposition that Moscow will not relent in its invasion of Ukraine and plans to create a buffer zone along the border to help protect against long-range Ukrainian strikes and cross-border raids.

Listen live at 1:35 p.m.: More on Putin’s continued presidency

 

The Kremlin’s forces have recently made battlefield progress as Kyiv’s troops struggle with a severe shortage of artillery shells and exhausted front-line units after more than two years of war. The front line stretches over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) across eastern and southern Ukraine.

Advances have been slow and costly, and Ukraine has increasingly used its long-range firepower to hit oil refineries and depots deep inside Russia. Also, groups claiming to be Ukraine-based Russian opponents of the Kremlin have launched cross-border incursions.

“We will be forced at some point, when we consider it necessary, to create a certain ‘sanitary zone’ on the territories controlled by the (Ukrainian government),” Putin said late Sunday.

This “security zone,” Putin said, “would be quite difficult to penetrate using the foreign-made strike assets at the enemy’s disposal.”

He spoke at a news conference after the release of election returns that showed him securing a fifth six-year term by a landslide in an election devoid of any real opposition following his relentless crackdown on dissent.

Monday marks the 10th anniversary of Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, which set the stage for Russia to invade its neighbor in February 2022. However, Putin has been vague about his goals in Ukraine since that full-scale invasion floundered.

Putin also again warned the West against deploying troops to Ukraine. A possible conflict between Russia and NATO would put the world “a step away” from World War III, he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently said that sending Western troops into Ukraine should not be ruled out — though he said the current situation does not require it.

Commenting on the prospects for peace talks with Kyiv, Putin reaffirmed that Russia remains open to negotiations but won’t be lured into a truce that will allow Ukraine to rearm.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has apparently shut the door on such talks, saying Putin should be brought to trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which last year issued an arrest warrant for Putin on war crime charges.

With crucial U.S. aid being held up in Washington, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham arrived in Kyiv on Monday, the U.S. Embassy said. Ukraine desperately needs the around $48 billion that the package of support would provide, especially artillery shells and air defense systems.

Ukraine’s air force said it intercepted 17 out of 22 Shahed drones launched by Russia over various regions of the country overnight. Russia also fired five S-300/S-400 missiles at the Kharkiv region and two Kh-59 at the Sumy region, both in northeastern Ukraine, it said. 
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This story corrects the name of the court to the International Criminal Court.
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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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With the election behind him, Putin says Russian forces aim to set up a buffer zone inside Ukraine