Putin's acid speech in St. Petersburg.  Russia's leader accuses the West of trying to destroy his country with "stupid" sanctions

Speaking at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, a landmark event that takes place almost without Western participation this year, he told Russia’s political and economic elite:

“We are strong people and we can face any challenge. Like our ancestors, we will solve any problem, the whole millennial history of our country speaks of this.”

Putin drew applause from the hall when he reaffirmed his determination to continue the “special military operation” in Ukraine, which triggered what he said was an “unprecedented” barrage of Western economic sanctions, Reuters reports.

He said the main purpose of the raid was to defend “our” people in the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, a justification that Kiev and the West reject as an unfounded pretext for war. which has already led to the occupation of parts of southern Ukraine far beyond the Donbas.

Putin said Russian soldiers in Donbas are also fighting to defend Russia’s own “rights to ensure development.”

“The West has fundamentally refused to fulfill its previous obligations, and it has simply proved impossible to reach new agreements with it,” Putin said.

“In the current situation, amid growing risks to us and threats, Russia’s decision to conduct a special military operation has been forced – difficult, of course, but forced and necessary.”

Putin said the United States considers itself “God’s emissary on earth” and that Western sanctions are based on a false premise that Russia has no economic sovereignty.

Washington and its allies have tried to “change the course of history,” he said, in order to weaken a sovereign and independent Russia.

Shortly before Putin began his speech, the Kremlin announced that a “denial of service” cyber attack had disrupted the accreditation and conference admission systems, forcing him to postpone the scheduled start of his speech for an hour.

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