Ukraine war: We've gained, not lost, from sanctions, says Putin

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By Euronews  with Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia   -   Copyright  Sergei Bobylev/TASS News Agency Host Pool Photo via AP   -  

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed on Wednesday that Russia had not lost anything as a result of its war in Ukraine.

He threatened to cut off energy supplies if price caps are imposed on Russia's oil and gas exports, warning the West it would be "frozen" like a wolf's tail in a famous Russian fairy tale. And he also called into question the UN-brokered deal that allows Ukraine to export its grain via the Black Sea.

Speaking at an economic forum in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, Putin said that all of Russia's actions were designed to strengthen the country's sovereignty and were aimed at "helping people" living in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

"We have not lost anything and will not lose anything," Putin said. "In terms of what we have gained, I can say that the main gain has been the strengthening of our sovereignty.”

He did not mention NATO's build-up of forces in eastern Europe or its planned admission of Finland and Sweden as members, thwarting his stated aim of preventing the Western alliance's expansion.

The Russian leader conceded, however, that Moscow's decision to send troops into Ukraine had created a "certain polarisation, both in the world and within the country”.

'Sanctions fever'

Putin, who says Western sanctions are akin to a declaration of economic war, attacked "the West's sanctions fever, with its brazen, aggressive attempt to impose models of behaviour on other countries, to deprive them of their sovereignty and subordinate them to their will".

In his speech, he accused Western countries of "undermining the key pillars of the world economic system built over centuries".

Western allies imposed the most severe sanctions in modern history on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. They have starved Russian industry of key components like microchips, cut Russians off from international payment systems and led to the departure of thousands of Western companies.

Putin brushed aside their impact. The economy would contract by "around 2% or a little more" this year and the budget would be in surplus, he said.

A US study in July said sanctions were "catastrophically crippling" the Russian economy, but the country itself has produced figures to suggest it is holding up.

Russia has been enjoying high revenues from its energy exports amid soaring prices — but would lose much of this should supplies to Europe be cut. 

'We will not supply anything'

The European Union proposed a price cap on Russian gas on Wednesday hours after President Vladimir Putin threatened to halt all supplies if they took such a step.

Putin said European calls for a price cap on Russian gas were "stupid", and would lead to higher global prices and economic problems in Europe.

The Group of Seven (G7) wealthy democracies announced plans to impose a price cap on Russian oil exports last week. Russia would walk away from its supply contracts if the West went ahead with its plans, Putin said.

"We will not supply gas, oil, coal, heating oil - we will not supply anything," Putin said.

Russia's leader added some defiant spice from the famous Russian folk story "The Sister-Fox and the Wolf".

"We would only have one thing left to do: as in the famous Russian fairy tale, we would sentence the wolf's tail to be frozen," Putin said.

Europe has accused Russia of weaponising energy supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

EU energy ministers are due to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss how to tackle the energy crisis.

Grain deal cast into doubt

At the same time, Putin warned of a looming global food crisis and said he would discuss amending a landmark grain deal with Ukraine to limit the countries that can receive cargo shipments.

Putin said Russia had signed the deal in July, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, on the understanding it would help alleviate surging food prices in the developing world, but instead, it was rich Western countries that were taking advantage of the deal.

"If we exclude Turkey as an intermediary country, then almost all the grain exported from Ukraine is sent not to the poorest developing countries, but to European Union countries,” he said.

"Once again, developing countries have simply been deceived and continue to be deceived. It is obvious that with this approach, the scale of food problems in the world will only increase ... which can lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.”

His comments raised the possibility the pact could unravel if it cannot be successfully renegotiated or might not be renewed by Moscow when it expires in late November.

Ukraine, whose ports had been blockaded by Russia after it invaded in February, said the terms of the agreement, which was signed on July 22 for a period of four months, were being strictly observed and there were no grounds to renegotiate it.

"I believe that such unexpected and groundless statements rather indicate an attempt to find new aggressive talking points to influence global public opinion and, above all, put pressure on the United Nations," said Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential adviser.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he did not think the West's "provocative" policies towards Russia was correct, after the European Union proposed a price cap on Russian gas.

Putin and Xi to meet

During his speech, Putin also repeated his assertion that the current Ukrainian government is an "illegitimate regime", saying it was founded after a "coup" in 2014.

Meanwhile, it was announced on Wednesday that Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet next week at a summit being held in the Uzbek city of Samarkand.

China has so far sought to appear neutral when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine, and avoid possible repercussions from supporting the Russian economy amid international sanctions.

Putin and Xi last met in Beijing in February, weeks before the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine.