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Putin: If West wants to beat us on the battlefield, let them try

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President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had barely gotten started in Ukraine and dared the West to try to defeat it on the battlefield.

In an ultra-hawkish speech to parliamentary leaders more than four months into the war, Putin said the prospects for any negotiation would grow dimmer the longer the conflict dragged on.

“Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can you say, let them try,” he said.

“We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading towards this.”

Russia accuses the West of waging a proxy war against it by hammering its economy with sanctions and stepping up the supply of advanced weapons to Ukraine.

Negotiations

But while boasting that Russia was just getting into its stride, Putin also referred to the possibility of negotiations.

“Everyone should know that, by and large, we haven’t started anything yet in earnest,” he added. “At the same time, we don’t reject peace talks. But those who reject them should know that the further it goes, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us.”

It was the first reference to diplomacy in many weeks after repeated statements from Moscow that negotiations with Kyiv had totally broken down.

Since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian forces have captured large swathes of the country, including completing the seizure of the eastern region of Luhansk last Sunday.

But Russia’s progress has been far slower than many analysts predicted, and Russian forces were beaten back in initial attempts to take the capital, Kyiv, and second city, Kharkiv.