Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Moscow will continue pursuing its “special military operation” in Ukraine until all its plans are implemented.
Speaking at a concert in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, Putin implicitly shrugged off Western media reports claiming that the war is not going according to plan, instead asserting that Moscow is clear eyed on the next steps in Ukraine.
"We know what needs to be done next, how to do it next, and at what expense. And we will definitely implement all the outlined plans," he said.
Putin said the people of Donbas, Eastern Ukraine – an area with a large ethnic Russian population – "were punished because they opposed the 2014 coup" – which overthrew pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych – and that Russia's goal in Ukraine is to free them from military pressure and economic blockades and to restore normal life.
Since 2014, Russian has supported the separatists in Donbas, a conflict that has taken over 13,000 lives, according to UN figures.
The Russian military and the rebel forces of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions – two breakaway enclaves in Donbas recognized by Russia – help each other like brothers, said Putin.
"The words from the sacred scripture come to my mind: "There is no greater love than if someone laid down his life for his friends’," he said, quoting the Bible’s Book of John.
The Russia-Ukraine war started on Feb. 24 with Russian claims to be protecting Donbas from “genocide,” but quickly spread to the rest of the country.
The war has drawn international condemnation, led to financial restrictions on Moscow, and spurred an exodus of global firms from Russia.
At least 816 civilians have been killed and 1,333 injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, the UN said, while noting that conditions on the ground make it difficult to verify the actual number.
More than 3.16 million people have also fled to neighboring countries, said the UN refugee agency.