Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Wednesday that the war in Ukraine “could be a long process” and that the conflict was taking longer than expected.
Speaking at a televised meeting with members of the Human Rights Council, Putin admitted concern about supplies, wounded soldiers and some troop defections.
But he still insisted that Russian forces had managed to capture new territory despite various setbacks in their “special military operation” launched in late February.
The Russian leader called the gains in southern and eastern Ukraine “a significant result for Russia” and vowed to continue “fighting for our interests.”
Putin illegally annexed four regions in Ukraine in the fall: Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south and Donetsk and Lugansk in the east, although those are all disputed 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, drove Russia out of the western part of the country, including the capital of Kyiv, early in the war. Through major counteroffensives in recent months, Ukraine has also recaptured 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 that only 150,000 of these troops have been deployed since the decree and that there will be no other mobilization.
Putin also defended his earlier comments threatening to use nuclear weapons, calling Russia’s nuclear arsenal a “deterrent” to the Western world.
“We have not 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 any other nuclear power has.”
In September, Putin said Russia’s potential use of nuclear weapons “is not a hoax,” though officials in Moscow have since issued statements saying nuclear war must be avoided at all costs.
Ukrainian and Russian troops are preparing for the coming winter months, and analysts estimate that the forces could be preparing for possible counteroffensives in the spring.
Meanwhile, Russia has begun bombing Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and power grids, while attacks on bases hundreds of miles inside Russia this week may have signaled retaliation from Ukraine.
Associated Press contributed to this report.