Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned Kyiv that it should quickly accept Moscow's terms or brace for the worst, adding ominously that Russia has barely started its action in the country.
Speaking at a meeting with leaders of the Kremlin-controlled Russian parliament, Putin accused Western allies of fueling the hostilities, charging that "the West wants to fight us until the last Ukrainian.”
“It's a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it looks like it's heading in that direction,” he added.
Putin declared that Russia was ready to sit down for talks to end the fighting, saying that “those who refuse to do so should know that the longer it lasts the more difficult it will be for them to make a deal with us.”
“We are hearing that they want to defeat us on the battlefield,” he said. “Let them try.”
The Kremlin has previously demanded that Kyiv acknowledge Russian sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, as well as recognise the independence of Moscow-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow has also said in the past that it expected Ukraine to bow to the existing situation on the ground, a reference to other land gains made since Russian troops entered Ukraine on 24 February.
Control of the east
After failing to capture Kyiv and other big cities in Ukraine's northeast early, Russia’s military shifted its focus to the eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian troops since 2014.
Earlier this week the Russian military claimed control of Luhansk province, one of two that make up Donbas, and that it is preparing to press its offensive into the second one, Donetsk.
Moscow is expected to try to cut Ukraine off from its Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border. If successful, it would deal a crushing blow to the Ukrainian economy and also create a corridor to Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, where Russia maintains military forces.
Putin also reaffirmed his long-held claim that the West is using the conflict in Ukraine to try to isolate and weaken Russia.
“They simply don't need such a country as Russia,” he said. “This is why they have used terrorism, separatism and internal destructive forces in our country.”
“The course of history is unstoppable, and attempts by the collective West to enforce its version of the global order are doomed to fail,” Putin added.