MOSCOW – As unprecedented Western sanctions shook Russian finances, top Moscow officials doubled down on their war against Ukraine, with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu saying the war would not stop until Moscow’s goals to “denazify” Ukraine were met and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accusing Kyiv of plans to acquire nuclear weapons.
Shoigu hit out at the West for “trying to use the Ukrainian people in the fight against our country.”
Kremlin Ukrainians Dmitry Peskov called claims that Russia had used cluster bombs and vacuum bombs a “canard.” He denied a war or invasion was taking place, calling it a “special operation” in the Kremlin’s approved terminology.
Speaking in his daily press call, Peskov dismissed Ukraine’s allegation that Russia was committing war crimes and claimed that “nationalist groups” were using people as human shields, claims for which Russia has offered no evidence.
Asked by a journalist about Russia refusing to use the term “war” when Russian Grad multiple rocket launchers were striking residential areas such as Kharkiv, Peskov replied, “You are asking the question from the point of view of emotions. I’m telling you officially, President Putin as commander in chief gave the order to launch a special operation and a special operation is underway.”
Peskov said the West had revealed its true nature, with its tough sanctions against Russia officials, banks, oligarchs and its efforts to isolate Russia’s financial system and impact its economy.
“And now these aggressive actions against our country are of a sharply concentrated nature,” he said.
Shoigu, who has put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert on President Vladimir Putin’s orders, said Russian forces were “not occupying Ukrainian territory” and that Russia was taking “every measure” to protect lives.
Wall-to-wall coverage on Russian state television calls the “operation” defensive, aimed to dealing with “nazis” and “nationalists,” who have taken the country hostage with the help of the West, turning Ukraine into an “anti-Russia project.”