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LONDON: President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that if the West wanted to defeat Russia on the battlefield, it was welcome to try.

Russia was just getting started in Ukraine, Putin said in a hawkish speech to parliamentary leaders, and the prospects for any negotiation would grow dimmer the longer the conflict dragged on.

“Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can you say, let them try,” Putin said in televised remarks to parliamentary leaders. “We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading towards this.

“Everyone should know that, by and large, we haven’t started anything yet in earnest,” he added. “At the same time, we don’t reject peace talks. But those who reject them should know that the further it goes, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us.”

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