Moscow Could Target Countries Supplying Weapons to Ukraine, Putin Says

Moscow Could Target Countries Supplying Weapons to Ukraine, Putin Says

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia warned on Wednesday that Western nations supplying Ukraine with long-range missiles and allowing them to be used to attack inside Russia was a “dangerous step” that could prompt Moscow to reciprocate against Western targets.

“If someone thinks it possible to send such weapons to a war zone to strike our territory and create problems for us,” Mr. Putin said at a news conference, “then why do we not have the right to send our weapons of the same class to those regions of the world where strikes can be made on sensitive facilities of the countries that do this against Russia?”

Mr. Putin singled out Germany, saying that its supply of battle tanks to Ukraine had been an initial blow to Russian-German relations, but its permission to use missiles in Russia was even worse.

“Now, when they say that some missiles will appear that will strike targets on Russian territory, this, of course, is ultimately destroying Russo-German relations,” he said.

Mr. Putin was speaking to senior editors from at least 15 news agencies from around the world that were invited to meet with him on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Mr. Putin had skipped the tradition since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, but this year the invitation was extended to Western outlets such as The Associated Press, Reuters and various European agencies including Agence France-Press, DPA from Germany, ANSA from Italy and EFE from Spain.

Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters that representatives from “unfriendly countries” were included because “it is very important for them to get to know Putin and understand Russia firsthand,” according to Russia’s official news agency, Tass.

Western business executives largely avoided the forum, while China had a significant presence, including a presentation of a bulletproof limousine that retails for more than $560,000 in China, Tass reported.

Mr. Putin answered questions on a wide range of topics, but many of the queries focused on the war in Ukraine. Although Russia invaded Ukraine after it had begun destabilizing the Eastern regions in 2014 by supporting separatists, Mr. Putin again portrayed the war as the fault of Ukraine and its Western allies.

Countries that are supplying weapons to Ukraine risked being dragged into a war with Russia, he said.

It was not clear where Mr. Putin possibly planned to position Russian weapons in other regions. It has deployed troops and armaments in Belarus, including possibly nuclear missiles, during the war. Belarus borders Europe more closely than Russia, as does the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. Russia also has forces in Syria near bases where the United States operates.

In terms of relations with Washington, Mr. Putin said that he did not think the looming presidential election would change much as long as the United States continued to pursue “greatness.”

Asked about the recent conviction of the former president, Donald J. Trump, Mr. Putin said that the United States was burning itself from within. “It is obvious all over the world that the prosecution of Trump, especially in court on charges that were formed on the basis of events that happened years ago, without direct proof, is simply using the judicial system in an internal political struggle,” he said.

On the subject of Evan Gershkovich, the American reporter from The Wall Street Journal who has been imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges for more than a year, Mr. Putin said that the United States was taking “vigorous steps” toward his release. He, The Journal and the U.S. government have all denied the charges.

Such issues “should only be resolved on the basis of reciprocity,” Mr. Putin added. “The relevant U.S. and Russian agencies are in contact with each other on this issue.”

Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.

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