Putin says Russian invasion will achieve ‘noble’ aims

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has said his invasion of Ukraine will achieve what he called its “noble” aims.

Speaking alongside Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko, Mr Putin claimed that a clash with Ukraine had become “inevitable”.

Mr Putin said he had been left with no choice but to launch the invasion in a bid to protect the Russian speaking Donbas region.

The UN says 10 million people have fled their homes since the invasion began.

But during a public appearance marking the 61st anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space, Mr Putin insisted that his forces are aiding oppressed people in separatist regions of Ukraine.

“On the one hand, we are helping and saving people, and on the other, we are simply taking measures to ensure the security of Russia itself,” the 69-year old insisted.

“It’s clear that we didn’t have a choice. It was the right decision,” he said, adding “the goals are perfectly clear, they are noble.”

The Kremlin claims that Ukraine has committed genocide against Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, but there is no evidence to suggest that is the case.

More than 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes since the invasion began and the Russian economy has been rocked by a package of severe sanctions imposed by Western nations.

However, the Russian president said that Russia does not “intend to be isolated”, arguing that it is “impossible to severely isolate anyone in the modern world – especially such a vast country as Russia”.

Speaking from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, some 3,450 miles (5550 km) east of Moscow, the Russian leader also drew upon the success of the Soviet space programme, comparing Gagarin’s achievement during the Cold War to Russia’s current international isolation.

“The sanctions were total, the isolation was complete but the Soviet Union was still first in space,” Mr Putin said.

Mr Lukashenko also dismissed the impact of sanctions, asking Mr Putin “why an earth are we getting so worried about these sanctions?”

Last week, the UK government predicted that Russia is heading for its deepest recession since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The UK Foreign Office said Russia’s GDP is expected to contract by between 8.5% and 15% this year, as the impact of international sanctions take hold.