Biden, Putin offer contrasting views on Ukraine in major speeches one year after invasion

U.S. President Joe Biden praised Ukraine's resolve in a speech from Poland, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western countries Tuesday of igniting and sustaining the war in Ukraine, as the one-year anniversary of a war that has killed tens of thousands of people nears.

Putin threatens to suspend participation in New START Treaty, which sets limits on nuclear arsenals

Putin, Biden give duelling speeches on state of war in Ukraine

7 months ago
Duration 2:36
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of igniting war in Ukraine and threatened to pull out of a nuclear treaty, while U.S. President Joe Biden promised Russia would never experience victory in Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden reaffirmed the commitment to a "free, sovereign and democratic" Ukraine in Warsaw, praising NATO ally Poland's commitment to its war-torn neighbour.

"President Putin's craven lust for land and power will fail, and the Ukrainian people's love for their country will prevail," said Biden. "The democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow and forever."

"Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, never," he said at another point in his speech from the gardens of Warsaw's Royal Castle. 

While Biden is looking to use his whirlwind trip to Europe as a moment of affirmation for Ukraine and allies, the White House has also emphasized that there is no clear endgame to the war in the near term and the situation on the ground has become increasingly complex.

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Biden said there would be "hard and bitter days ahead, but he cast the world as being at an inflection point characterized by a number of stark choices, including between "democracy that lifts up the human spirit and the brutal hand of the dictator who crushes it."

"The decisions we make over the next five years or so, are going to determine and shape our lives for decades to come," he said.

Two men in coats are shown walking along a row of troops.
Poland's President Andrzej Duda, left, and Biden inspect an honour guard during an arrival ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, ahead of the U.S. president's speech on Tuesday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Polish President Andrzej Duda preceded Biden, praising his "incredible gesture" of visiting Kyiv on Monday. Duda also offered Poland's continued support for Ukraine's defence.

"I call on all European states, NATO states, to show solidarity with Ukraine, to provide military support to Ukraine, so that they have something to fight with," said Duda. "Do not be afraid to provide this support."

The U.S. has committed about $113 billion US in aid to Ukraine since last year, while European allies have committed tens of billions of dollars more and welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees who have fled the conflict.

Several people stand in winter coats listening to a speech, some with flags.
People look on as Biden delivers remarks ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outside the Royal Castle in Warsaw. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Ukraine 'hostage' to the West: Putin

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western countries of igniting and sustaining the war in Ukraine, dismissing any blame for Moscow.

In his long-delayed state-of-the-nation address, Putin cast Russia — and Ukraine — as victims of Western double-dealing and said Russia, not Ukraine, was the one fighting for its very existence.

A man in a suit is shown speaking at a podium with an insignia on it.
Vladimir Putin gestures as he gives his annual state of the nation address in Moscow on Tuesday. The Russian leader vowed no military let-up in Ukrainian territories he has illegally annexed (Sergei Karpukhin/Sputnik/The Associated Press)

"We aren't fighting the Ukrainian people," Putin said in a speech days before the war's first anniversary on Friday. Ukraine "has become hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country."

Putin said that Russia would suspend its participation in the New START Treaty, signed with the U.S. in 2010 and extended in the early days of the Biden administration in 2021. But some hours later the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Russia will continue to observe limits on the number of nuclear warheads it can deploy as outlined in the treaty.

The speech reiterated a litany of grievances that the Russian leader has frequently offered as justification for the widely condemned war and ignored international demands to pull back from occupied areas in Ukraine.

The Russian leader vowed no military let-up in Ukrainian territories he has illegally annexed, apparently rejecting any peace overtures in a conflict that has reawakened fears of a new Cold War.

More sanctions coming, Biden says

Putin offered his personalized version of recent history, which discounted arguments by the Ukrainian government that it needed Western help to thwart a Russian military takeover.

"Western elites aren't trying to conceal their goals, to inflict a 'strategic defeat' to Russia," Putin said in the speech broadcast by all state TV channels. "They intend to transform the local conflict into a global confrontation."

He said that Russia is prepared to respond to that as "it will be a matter of our country's existence."

Damaged building and rubble are shown.
A view shows destroyed buildings in the town of Siversk, Donetsk region, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, on Monday. (Yevhen Titov/Reuters)

Putin accused the West of launching "aggressive information attacks" and taking aim at Russian culture, religion and values because it is aware that "it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield."

He also accused Western nations of waging an attack on Russia's economy with sanctions — but declared those actions hadn't "achieved anything and will not achieve anything."

Polish sacrifices praised

Biden, in his speech, promised that the U.S. and its allies would announce more, unspecified sanctions against Russia this week.

While the constitution mandates that the president deliver the speech annually, Putin never gave one in 2022. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the speech's delay had to do with Putin's "work schedule," but Russian media reports linked it to the multiple setbacks Russian forces have suffered on the battlefield in Ukraine.

WATCH | Deadly attack Tuesday in southern Ukraine:

Ukraine's Kherson region hit by Russian shelling

7 months ago
Duration 0:56
The southern Ukrainian city of Kherson was hit Tuesday by multiple deadly Russian rocket attacks, which local authorities say were delivered while Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech saying Russia was not fighting the Ukrainian people.

Biden on Tuesday praised the commitment of Poland and its "willingness to open your hearts." More than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have settled in Poland since the start of the war, and Poland has also provided Ukraine with $3.8 billion in military and humanitarian aid, according to the White House.

The conflict — the most significant war in Europe since the Second World War — has already left tens of thousands of people dead, devastated Ukraine's infrastructure system and damaged the global economy.

On the ground Tuesday, the Ukrainian military reported that Russian forces shelled southern cities of Kherson and Ochakiv, killing six people.

With files from CBC News