Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused NATO of "imperial ambitions".

The military alliance is trying to assert its "supremacy" through the Ukraine conflict, Putin told journalists in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabad on Wednesday.

"Ukraine and the well-being of the Ukrainian people are not the goal of the collective West and NATO, but a means of defending their own interests."

Russia has "no problem" with the planned NATO accession of Finland and Sweden, said Putin.

"We don't have any problems with Sweden and Finland like we have with Ukraine." There are no "territorial differences" between the two countries.

There will be tension

However, should "military contingents and military infrastructure be deployed" in the states, Russia would be forced to respond in the same way, Putin added. it doesn't work without it," Putin was quoted as saying by the Tass news agency.

The accession of Finland and Sweden was officially launched at the NATO summit on Wednesday.

The Russian head of state also denied responsibility for the attack on a shopping center in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk that killed 18.

“Our army does not attack civilian infrastructure.

We're absolutely able to know what's where," he said.

War runs “quietly and rhythmically”

More than four months after the start of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin has again claimed that hostilities are going according to plan.

"The work is quiet, rhythmic, the troops are moving and reaching the lines that have been set for them as milestones," Putin told Russian journalists in Ashgabat on Wednesday.

"Everything is going according to plan," he was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Tass.

On February 24, Russian troops invaded Ukraine from several directions.

After being unable to reach the capital Kyiv due to fierce resistance from Ukrainian units, they concentrated on the Donbass industrial area in eastern Ukraine.

According to Western experts, the Russian military is advancing, suffering heavy casualties and rapidly depleting its artillery shells.

Putin repeated the previous description of the goals of the "special operation", as the Russian leadership calls the war of aggression.

It is about "liberating" Donbass, "protecting" its residents and "creating conditions that would guarantee Russia's security," said the Russian president.

NATO wanted to turn Ukraine into an "anti-Russian bridgehead," Putin reiterated earlier justifications for the attack.

Songs and Poems for Russian Heroes

Putin declined to comment on how long the hostilities could continue.

"It would be wrong to set any deadlines," he said.

More intense fighting would mean higher casualties and "the main thing we have to think about is how to save our boys' lives."

Putin called the Russian soldiers "heroes".

Songs and poems should be written about them and monuments should be given to them, he said.

Ukrainian and international experts have documented numerous cases of violence against civilians by Russian soldiers, such as the killing of residents in the Kiev suburb of Bucha.

Moscow claims the atrocities are staged.