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Topline

Russian President Vladimir Putin toured a spaceport in the far east of Russia on Tuesday with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, defending Russia’s “clear and noble” goals in Ukraine and pointing to the country’s prior achievements in space as proof Western efforts to isolate Moscow will fail.

Key Facts

It is practically “impossible to severely isolate anyone in the modern world,” let alone a country as “vast” as Russia, Putin said, according to Reuters, citing Russian state television.

Even the “total” sanctions and “complete” isolation of the Soviet Union did not stop it from beating the West into space, Putin said, adding that Russia does not “intend to be isolated.”

Putin said Russia would never again depend on the West and doubled down on the main goal of what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, which is to “help people in the Donbas,” the primarily Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine, and ensure Russia’s security, according to the New York Times.

He said Russia made the “right decision” and “didn’t have a choice” but to invade Ukraine, reiterating unproven claims the West has fostered a neo-Nazi, anti-Russian state on its doorstep.

Putin was touring the Vostochny spaceport with Belarusian ally Lukashenko, who reportedly asked why everyone is “getting so worried about these sanctions.”

The pair celebrated Cosmonaut’s Day—a celebration of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin carrying out the first human spaceflight in 1961—and announced a joint project to guarantee both countries independent access to space.

Key Background

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine six weeks ago, Western countries have imposed a series of increasingly harsh sanctions and restrictions against Russian businesses, industry, and key members of Putin’s inner circle. Many businesses have elected to withdraw from Russia as well. The sanctions have had a dramatic impact on the Russian economy and the World Bank estimates its economy will be around 11% smaller at the end of 2022 (it estimates Ukraine’s will fall around 45%). Despite the Russian downturn, critics, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, argue that sanctions are too weak and Europe’s continued purchasing of Russian oil and gas amounts to giving Russia “permission to attack.” Increasing indications of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, such as signs of executed civilians in Bucha, have added to pressure to up sanctions.

Tangent

Belarus, which has allowed Russian forces to stage attacks and regroup on its territory, has often been included in international sanctions and measures targeted against Moscow. Lukashenko has said he believes the country has been unfairly branded “an accomplice of the aggressor.”

Further Reading

Putin warns the West: Russia cannot be isolated – or held back (Reuters)

Source: Forbes

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