Putin acknowledges war in Ukraine 'could be a lengthy process'

Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Wednesday the war in Ukraine “could be a lengthy process” and the conflict was taking longer than he had expected.

Speaking in a televised meeting with members of the Human Rights Council, Putin admitted concerns about supplies, wounded soldiers and some troop desertions.

But he still insisted Russian forces had succeeded in capturing new territory despite various setbacks in his “special military operation” launched in late February.

The Russian leader called gains in southern and eastern Ukraine “a significant result for Russia” and vowed to continue to “fight for our interests.”

Putin illegally annexed four regions in Ukraine over the fall: Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south and Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, although those are all contested regions.

Russia also illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and captured the port of Mariupol in May, gaining key access to the Sea of Azov.

Ukrainian forces, however, pushed Russia out of the western part of the country, including the capitol of Kyiv, early in the war. Through major counteroffensives in recent months, Ukraine also reclaimed territories and cities, including Kherson and Kharkiv.

Putin on Wednesday discussed his partial mobilization order in September that called up some 300,000 reservists. He said only 150,000 of those troops have deployed from the decree and there would not be another mobilization.

Putin also defended his past remarks threatening the use of nuclear weapons, calling Russia’s nuclear arsenal a “deterrence” to the western world.

“We haven’t gone mad. We are fully aware of what nuclear weapons are,” Putin said. “We have them, and they are more advanced and state-of-the-art than what any other nuclear power has.”

Putin in September called Russia’s potential use of nuclear weapons “not a bluff,” although officials in Moscow have since released statements saying nuclear war must be avoided at all costs.

Ukrainian and Russian troops are settling in for the coming winter months, with analysts estimating that forces could be preparing for potential counteroffensives in the spring.

Meanwhile, Russia has begun bombarding Ukrainian civilian infrastructure and energy grids, while strikes in bases hundreds of miles inside Russia this week may have indicated retaliation from Ukraine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.