Russia's fight against Ukraine is going "according to plan," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on March 3.
"Dear comrades, I want to say that the special military operation is proceeding strictly in line with the timetable, according to plan. All the tasks that have been set are being successfully resolved," Putin said.
According to some officials, including the British Ministry of Defense, Russian troops have met "staunch resistance" from Ukrainian forces and a large column that is advancing on Kyiv from the north has made little progress in recent days.
Putin also said he would "never give up my conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people," adding that some Ukrainians "have been duped by Nazi and nationalist propaganda."
Putin made the remarks as he chaired a virtual meeting with members of his Security Council from a residence outside Moscow.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, claiming the operation was needed to "demilitarize and denazify" the neighboring country, in addition to putting on trial people who allegedly carried out crimes against civilians.
Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union but declared its independence in 1991.
Putin spoke as negotiators met in Belarus but ended a second round of talks with no pact, though the sides did agree to carve out so-called humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians from areas struck by bombs.
Ukraine wants Russia to agree to a ceasefire and the total withdrawal of its troops while Russia has called for Ukrainians to disarm.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said around the same time Putin spoke, during a briefing in Kyiv, that the Kremlin should treat Ukraine as an equal and negotiate in good faith.
Zelensky also appealed to Putin to meet with him directly while sarcastically referring to a long table Putin used for his recent meetings with foreign leaders and Russian officials.
“Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 meters,” adding, “I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?” Zelensky said.
Russia will look to expand into Baltic countries if successful in defeating Ukraine, the Ukrainian president warned, reiterating a call for Western countries to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
The Baltic states include Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, meanwhile, told a briefing in Moscow that "we are ready to talk, but we will continue our operation."
"We can't allow ourselves to preserve infrastructure threatening the safety of the Russian Federation in Ukraine. Demilitarization, in this sense, I mean the destruction of the infrastructure that threatens us will be completed. Even if we sign the peace treaty, it must include such an article," said Lavrov, who also alleged that outside countries were plotting to join the fray on Ukraine's side.
So far, no outside troops have been confirmed as entering the war, though reports claimed Belarusian personnel started fighting against Ukrainians.