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Russian President Vladimir Putin compared himself to Peter the Great, the nation’s first emperor, last week because they each sought to capture land they believed belonged to Russia.
Putin’s remarks came during a speech to mark the 350th anniversary of the emperor’s birth. Putin spoke during a visit to a multimedia exhibit about Peter the Great, an 18th-century leader who led a conquest of the Baltic region amid a war with Sweden. Putin explained that Peter the Great saw the land as rightfully Russian, drawing a parallel to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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“Peter the Great waged the Great Northern War for 21 years. It would seem that he was at war with Sweden, he took something from them,” Putin said. “He did not take anything from them, he returned [them].”
“Apparently, it also fell to us to return [what is Russia’s] and strengthen [the country]. And if we proceed from the fact that these basic values form the basis of our existence, we will certainly succeed in solving the tasks that we face,” he continued, referring to the invasion of Ukraine.
The current Russian president also highlighted that no European countries recognized the city of St. Petersburg as Russian when Peter the Great founded it.
“It’s impossible — do you understand — impossible to build a fence around a country like Russia,” Putin said.
Putin has repeatedly attempted to justify Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began in late February.
The invasion has caused tens of thousands of deaths, millions to be displaced from their homes and a disruption in the global economy.
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Ukrainian forces have shown resiliency thus far, holding on to the capital city of Kyiv, an area U.S. intelligence initially expected to fall to Russia within 72 hours of the beginning of the invasion.
But Russia has taken control of a Mariupol, a key port city, and continues its stronghold on much of the eastern part of the European country, although Ukraine said earlier this month it had regained control of part of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk.