President Vladimir Putin has made rare public comments specifically addressing Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
Speaking after an awards ceremony for “Heroes of Russia” at the Kremlin, he addressed a group of soldiers receiving the awards, clutching a glass of champagne.
“Yes, we are doing it. But who started it?” said the president, who ordered the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
He listed a series of events he blames on the Ukrainians: “Who hit the Crimean bridge? Who blew up the power lines from the Kursk nuclear power plant?”
Some background: The reference to the bridge pertains to an explosion that took place on the Kerch bridge — which connects Crimea to Russia — on Oct. 8, when a truck crossing it exploded and caused it to be partially destroyed. The Ukrainians have never claimed responsibility, but the Kremlin was quick to point fingers toward Kyiv. In the days following the bridge explosion, Putin said “further acts of terrorism on the territory of Russia will be harsh … have no doubt about that.” Last week, Putin appeared on the bridge while he was shown repairs, and then he drove a car across it.
Kursk appears to refer to Russia’s announcement that an airfield in the region, which neighbors Ukraine, was targeted in a drone attack. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has offered no comment on recent explosions, including in Kursk, which are deep within Russia. Officially, the targets are well beyond the reach of the country’s declared drones.
At the awards ceremony, Putin continued to list alleged aggressions: “Who is not supplying water to Donetsk? Not supplying water to a city of million is an act of genocide.”
He ended his apparent off-the-cuff comments by claiming there is no mention of the water situation. “No one has said a word about it anywhere. At all! Complete silence,” he said.
Putin tersely compared the difference in reactions between attacks on Russia and attacks on Ukraine.
“As soon as we make a move, do something in response — noise, clamor, crackle for the whole universe,” he said.
He ended by saying that “it won’t interfere with our combat missions.”