Vladimir Putin has pledged to give his army anything it asks for in a meeting with Russia’s top military officials as the war in Ukraine enters its 11th month.
Speaking in Moscow at the closing session of the expanded board of the ministry of defence, Putin said there were no “funding restrictions” for the military. “The country, the government will give everything that the army asks for. Everything,” the Russian president added.
Russia is expected to dramatically increase its spending on the military in the next two years, as Putin signals that he is preparing for a prolonged and costly war with Ukraine. Earlier this month, he said the conflict could turn into a “long-term process”, and the Kremlin shows no intention of climbing down from its maximalist goals of regime change in Ukraine.
Putin’s speech on Wednesday was also an acknowledgment that the mobilisation he announced in September – the first since the second world war – had not gone smoothly.
There have been public expressions of anger from citizens over the way the mobilisation has been handled, including complaints that the conscripts were not adequately prepared and equipped.
“The partial mobilisation that was carried out revealed certain problems, as everyone well knows, which should be promptly addressed,” he said.
“I ask the ministry of defence to be attentive to all civilian initiatives, including taking into account criticism and responding correctly, in a timely manner.”
Praising Russian troops as “heroes”, Putin said that half of the 300,000 mobilised soldiers were currently stationed away from the battlefield.
“This is a sufficient reserve for conducting the special military operation,” Putin said.
Senior Ukrainian officials have said Moscow is preserving its recently mobilised troops for future offensives.
“The second part of the mobilisation, 150,000 approximately, started their training courses in different camps,” Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said last week.
“The [draftees] do a minimum of three months to prepare. It means they are trying to start the next wave of the offensive probably in February, like last year. That’s their plan.”
Mainly Putin once again defended what Moscow calls its “special military operation”, repeating his earlier claims that the west was responsible for the conflict which he said was “inevitable”.
“What is happening now in Ukraine is a common tragedy, but this is not the result of Russian policy … This conflict was inevitable – better to have it today than tomorrow.”
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was scheduled to arrive in Washington on Wednesday to meet the US president, Joe Biden, at the White House and address a joint session of Congress.
On the trip – Zelenskiy’s first known foreign visit since Russia invaded – the Ukrainian president will also meet congressional leadership and national security committee officials from the Republican and Democratic parties.
Earlier on Wednesday, the former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev made an announced visit to Beijing where he met the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.
Xi told Medvedev that his administration had been “actively promoting peace and talks”, according to the state broadcaster China Central Television.
“China hopes relevant parties can stay rational and restrained, conduct comprehensive talks, and resolve mutual concerns on security via political methods,” Xi said.
Medvedev, who is now the deputy chair of Russia’s security council, said he and Xi had discussed the two countries’ “no limits” strategic partnership, as well as “the conflict in Ukraine”.
He added that he passed on a message from Putin to the Chinese leader.
China has avoided rebuking Russia for its role in Ukraine, instead blaming Nato for “messing up Europe”.
At the same time, the US has said it has not seen evidence of China providing military equipment to Russia, while Beijing also put its signature on a G20 declaration in November that said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine”.