Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the country’s Eastern Economic Forum Tuesday and used the opportunity to comment on a bevy of topics from former President’s Trump 2024 chances to Elon Musk to the 2024 Olympics.
Here’s what you need to know from his speech.
Putin backing Trump “witch hunt” claims
Putin came to the defense of former President Trump and his legal troubles, saying the charges against him are politically motivated and signal the “rottenness” of the U.S. political system.
“Everything that’s happening with Trump is politically motivated persecution of one’s political rival, that’s what it is,” Putin said. “And it’s being done before the eyes of the U.S. public and the whole world. They’ve simply exposed their internal problems.”
But he also sees no changes on the horizon for U.S.-Russia relations, no matter the outcome of the 2024 election.
“There will be no fundamental changes in the Russian direction in U.S. foreign policy, no matter who is elected president,” he said. “The U.S. authorities perceive Russia as an existential enemy.”
Trump’s legal battles have filled his campaign schedule with court dates, but have not appeared to significantly hurt his chances at the GOP nomination for president. He remains the favorite for Republicans to take on Biden next November.
Elon Musk is “an outstanding person”
The Russian president had complimentary words for tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who has come into controversy recently as excerpts of an upcoming biography confirmed that Musk limited Ukraine’s ability to use Starlink satellite internet during an offensive against Russian forces last year.
Putin called Musk “an outstanding person” and “an active, talented businessman,” though he did not directly refer to the Starlink controversy.
The incident has brought Musk criticism from senior Ukrainian government officials. Musk claimed he made the decision to limit Starlink access because he did not want to be responsible for the war’s consequences.
Ukraine peace talks not expected any time soon
Putin said he does not expect the war in Ukraine to end soon and signaled that he would not be in favor of a ceasefire that he said could help Ukraine recover and rearm its forces.
Any potential end to the war would require peace talks, which Ukraine has refused to hold, citing Russia’s rejection of its demands, including the cession of all formerly Ukrainian land back to Ukraine.
Once Ukraine is willing to propose different requirements, Putin said peace negotiations could be considered.
“Then we shall see,” he said.
Ukraine is in the midst of a counteroffensive in the country’s eastern region, which has reportedly broken through Russia’s initial lines in recent days.
The war, which has now lasted for more than a year and a half, has destroyed countless villages and cities throughout eastern Ukraine and killed nearly 500,000 soldiers on both sides, the U.S. has estimated.
Military experts have estimated that there could be less than two months left before winter weather forces the fighting to stop for the year.
Russia’s alternative to the Olympics
Putin also used the stage to poke fun at the Olympics, which will hold its 2024 games in Paris next summer.
Russia has been excluded from the Olympics in recent years due to doping scandals among its teams. Russian athletes competed under a neutral banner dubbed the “Russian Olympic Committee” in the 2020 and 2022 games.
Putin announced the return of the Friendship Games, a rival to the Olympics which was originally run in 1984 by the Soviet Union after Soviet-bloc states boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
The new Friendship Games will be “within the BRICS framework,” Putin said, referring to the loose economic and diplomatic alliance between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The Russian alternative games will be held next fall, after the Paris Olympics, and will “kill today’s international structures,” Putin said.
He also took the opportunity to criticize the International Olympic Committee, which he said was bringing politics into a sporting event intended to unite countries.
“The International Olympic Committee itself, they are distorting the original idea of Pierre de Coubertin — sport should be outside of politics. It should not divide, but unite people,“ he said.
Soviet intervention in Hungary, Czechoslovakia was a “mistake”
Putin also reflected on Soviet history, saying that military interventions during anti-Soviet unrest in Budapest and Prague during the heart of the Cold War were mistakes.
“We have long recognized that this element of Soviet policy was a mistake and led only to tensions in relations,” Putin said.
The 1956 Hungarian Uprising lasted just 12 days and ended when the Soviet Union invaded the country, killing an estimated 3,000 civilians. The 1968 Prague Spring was a similar liberalization movement, which was crushed by military force a decade later.
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