Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “desperate” visit to Mariupol was his “last stand” amid his difficult invasion of Ukraine, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Sunday.
Putin on Saturday visited Mariupol, a Ukrainian port city that has suffered widespread damage from fighting in the Russo-Ukrainian war, just a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant over alleged war crimes by the Russian military in Ukraine. His visit provoked condemnation from Ukraine and its allies.
Putin’s visit comes more than a year after he launched his “military special operation” against the eastern European country, aimed at a quick victory. However, Ukraine’s vigorous defense efforts, backed by Western military aid, have prevented Moscow from making any significant advances despite the vast size of its military, with Putin facing increased scrutiny over the stalled invasion.
Sununu, a moderate Republican who has been named as a potential presidential candidate for 2024, joined in criticizing the Russian leader during an appearance on CNN state of the nation on Sunday.
The Republican governor described the visit as an attempt to boost morale among Putin’s troops and “contribute to the propaganda machine,” adding that the visit signals Putin’s “desperation to keep the troops together.”
“He knows he must somehow bolster the morale of the remaining troops wherever he can. The Russian army was absolutely decimated. She was demoralized. You leave the lines left and right. This is Putin’s, if you will, last stand,” Sununu said.
Sununu has sought to differentiate himself from fellow Republicans on the issue of Ukraine, which has divided the GOP. While many more traditional conservatives have expressed support for the United States providing military aid to the war-torn country, some Republicans close to Trump have said the US should not be so involved in the conflict.
Both former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are considered top contenders in the 2024 presidential campaign. said Fox News host Tucker Carlson recently that aid to Ukraine is not “vital” to US national interests, with DeSantis, who has not yet announced plans for a presidential bid, describing the war as a “territorial dispute.”
Sununu criticized these statements in an opinion piece for The Washington Post on Saturday.
“Rejecting aid to Ukraine simply because President Biden supports it is not a viable foreign policy,” the governor wrote. “Abandoning Ukraine would set off a negative chain of events for US interests at home and abroad.”
During his CNN interview on Sunday, he doubled his support for Ukraine.
“I made it very clear and a lot of other people made it very clear that we have to support Ukraine’s game. Russia is not a friend of the United States,” he said. “So this is the United States. We support freedom. We don’t surrender, we don’t back down, we support countries, we support our allies, we support coalitions.”
news week emailed Sununu’s press office for comment.