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Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu presided over a Russian Ministry of Defense Collegium in Moscow on Dec. 21. They made several statements on the strategic direction of the Russian military, during which Putin reiterated that Russia "will ensure the safety of all Russian territories, including illegally-annexed territories in Ukraine," the U.S.-based think tank said in its latest update.
Putin and Shoigu repeatedly rejected the idea of independent Ukrainian sovereignty and emphasized Russia’s need to keep Ukraine within the Kremlin’s sphere of influence and defeat the Ukrainian "Nazi" regime.
"Putin and Shoigu’s comments further illustrate that the Kremlin retains maximalist goals for the war in Ukraine that include: the recognition of illegally annexed territories, regime change of the Ukrainian government under the pretext of "denazification," control of Ukraine’s political and social character, and Western granting of Russia’s desired 'security guarantees,'" the ISW found.