President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia used to live by someone else’s rules – without saying who that was – and that "those who tried to control us" pushed Moscow to invade Ukraine.
Moscow describes the February invasion of Ukraine as a "special military operation."
"What happened in the previous years was largely because we played, lived by someone else’s rules. The events of today are a path to some internal purging and reinvention," Putin said during a meeting with mothers of Russian servicemen in Ukraine.
Without specifying who was trying to control Russia, Putin said the country made a mistake by following a different path in the nineties and the 2000s, a reference to the period following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
"And in the end, those who tried to control us, by and large, thanks to their efforts, we ended up in this situation, including in the zone of a special military operation. After all, they pushed the situation to this," he said.
In other remarks to the mothers of those serving in Ukraine, Putin said:
Russia is not fighting Ukrainians, but those who use them "as cannon fodder," an apparent reference to Western nations who are supporting the Kyiv government following the invasion in February.
"We have to fight not with them (Ukrainians), but with those who supply everything to them and finance them," Putin said.
Some context: The war in Ukraine combined with Western sanctions are taking a toll on Russians. While the shelves in most stores remain well-stocked, Western products are becoming increasingly scarce and very expensive, further driving prices that are already hammering many Russian households.
Some economists believe the population will grow increasingly critical of the “special military operation” amid mounting defeats, like in the southern city of Kherson, where a determined Ukrainian offensive forced a Russian withdrawal.