Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday, June 7, 2024.

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday, June 7, that Russia will consider sending weapons to adversaries of Western countries that supply arms to Ukraine, repeating a warning made days earlier.

He didn’t specify where such arms might be sent, saying only that they might be “states or even other legal entities that face certain pressure, including military (pressure), from those countries that send weapons to Ukraine and urge it to use it against us, against the Russian territory.” He also stressed that Moscow isn’t doing it currently.

“If they supply (weapons) to the combat zone and call for using these weapons against our territory, why don’t we have the right to do the same?” Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. “But I’m not ready to say that we will be doing it tomorrow, either.”

Earlier, Putin said that the Russian economy is growing despite heavy international sanctions and the country has expanded economic ties with countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as he sought to court investors at the forum. The event has been used by Russia for decades as a showcase for touting the country’s development, though Western officials and investors have steered clear of the session since sanctions cut off much of Russia’s trade with Western Europe, the US and their allies.

Addressing the presidents of Bolivia and Zimbabwe and business leaders, Putin said Russia “remains one of the key participants in world trade,” despite the fact that the country is under sweeping sanctions for sending troops into Ukraine.

The main driver of Russia’s economic growth is the fighting in Ukraine – now as important to the Kremlin economically as it is politically. Russians are finding a few imported staples, and most global brands have disappeared – or been reincarnated as Russian equivalents. But not much else has changed economically for most people, with massive state spending for military equipment and hefty payments to volunteer soldiers giving a strong boost to the economy.

Putin has heavily controlled his media appearances since sending his forces into Ukraine but he took questions Wednesday from international journalists, including some from Western countries he has criticized, on the sidelines of the forum.

At that meeting, Putin warned that Russia could provide long-range weapons to others to strike Western targets in response to NATO allies allowing Ukraine to use their arms to attack Russian territory. He also reaffirmed Moscow’s readiness to use nuclear weapons if it sees a threat to its sovereignty.

Le Monde with AFP