Russian leader says he does not see any need to deploy more troops to fight with Ukraine, while stressing that his country's nuclear arsenal is a means to retaliate, not to strike first.

Moscow had expected fighting with Ukraine to last just days after the start of the conflict in February.
Moscow had expected fighting with Ukraine to last just days after the start of the conflict in February. (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that his country's military could be fighting against Ukraine for a long time, even as he stated that he does not see the need to call for another mobilisation of troops.

"As for the long process of (seeing) results of the special military operation, of course, this is a lengthy process," Putin said during a televised meeting with the Kremlin's human rights council on Wednesday.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been going on since February. Moscow had expected the fighting to last just days before Ukraine's surrender.

Putin said Russians would "defend ourselves with all the means at our disposal", asserting that Russia was seen in the West as "a second-class country that has no right to exist at all".

At the meeting, he also said that the risk of nuclear war was growing - the latest in a series of such warnings - but that Russia saw its arsenal as a means to retaliate, not to strike first.

"We haven't gone mad, we realise what nuclear weapons are," Putin said. 

"We have these means in more advanced and modern form than any other nuclear country ... But we aren't about to run around the world brandishing this weapon like a razor."

The Russian leader said reminders of his country's nuclear arsenal were "not a factor provoking an escalation of conflicts, but a factor of deterrence."

He also said there was no reason for a second mobilisation at this point, after a call-up of at least 300,000 reservists in September and October.

Putin said 150,000 of these were deployed in Ukraine: 77,000 in combat units and the others in defensive functions. The remaining troops were still at training camps.

"Under these conditions, talk about any additional mobilisation measures simply makes no sense," he said.

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Putin says 150,000 of the country's troops have been deployed to fight against Ukraine: 77,000 in combat units and the others in defensive functions.
Putin says 150,000 of the country's troops have been deployed to fight against Ukraine: 77,000 in combat units and the others in defensive functions. (AA)

'Peter the Great's aspiration'

Putin has rarely discussed the likely duration of the war, although he boasted in July that Russia was just getting started.

Since then, Russia has been forced into significant retreats, but Putin has said he has no regrets about launching a war that is Europe's most devastating since World War Two.

Putin said Russia had already achieved a "significant result" with the acquisition of "new territories" in Ukraine - a reference to the annexation of four partly occupied regions in September that Kiev and most members of the United Nations condemned as illegal.

He said Russia had made the Sea of Azov - bounded by Russia and Russian-occupied territory - its "internal sea". 

He said that had been an aspiration of Peter the Great - the 17th- and 18th-century warrior tsar.

Putin also criticised Western countries saying they are turning a blind eye to what he said was direct Ukrainian shelling of residential areas in the Russian-held Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine has suffered heavy civilian casualties throughout the war, although Russia denies targeting civilians.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies