The West, led by the United States, is trying to “tear apart” Russia, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview aired on Sunday, Reuters reported.

“At the core of it all is the policy of our geopolitical opponents, aiming to tear apart Russia, the historical Russia,” Putin told Rossiya 1 state television in the interview while speaking about his 10-month offensive in Ukraine. “They [West] have always tried to ‘divide and conquer’… Our goal is something else – to unite the Russian people.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, claiming it is a special military operation that was necessary to prevent Kyiv from being used as a platform for Western aggression. But Kyiv and its Western allies have dismissed these arguments as baseless pretext for a war.

In the interview aired on Sunday, Putin justified the conflict saying his government was acting in the right direction by protecting Russian interests. “As for the main part – the 99.9% of our citizens, our people who are ready to give everything for the interests of the Motherland – there is nothing unusual for me here,” he added.

The Russian president reiterated that Moscow was ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the war in Ukraine. He accused Kyiv and its western allies of refusing to hold talks.

When asked about the new air defence system that the US will deliver to Ukraine, Putin said, “Of course, we will destroy it, 100%!”

His comments came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russia as a “terrorist country”. Relentless Russian missile and drone attacks since October have left millions of Ukrainians without power, heating and running water.

In a video address, Zelensky said, “Even in complete darkness, we will find each other to hug each other tightly. And if there is no heat, we will embrace each other for a long time to warm one another.”