The Kremlin leader also warned that Russia had barely started its campaign in Ukraine. Putin accused Kyiv’s western allies of fuelling hostilities.
In a televised speech, he warned that “the West wants to fight us until the last Ukrainian” and that this would bring “tragedy for Ukraine.”
He said: “Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can you say, let them try.
“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.”
The Russian leader also issued one of his most ominous warnings of the conflict yet, claiming Moscow may only be at the very start of its campaign in Ukraine.
Speaking at a meeting with parliamentary leaders, Putin said the prospects for any negotiation would grow dimmer the longer the conflict dragged on.
He said: “Everyone should know that, by and large, we haven’t started anything yet in earnest.
“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.”
Putin’s aggressive stand was later re-enforced by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who told reporters that Russia was undergoing a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
He added: “Russia’s potential is so great that only a small portion of it is being used in the special operation.”
On the ground yesterday, four people died and nine were injured by attacks in the northern Kharkiv area, according to Oleh Synyehubov, governor of the region. He said: “We have no right to lose our vigilance. After all, just yesterday evening, the enemy massively shelled the Nemyshlyan district – damaged houses, garages, containers, outbuildings.”
Fierce fighting was also continuing yesterday along a 300-mile front in the East.
The British Ministry of Defence, in its daily intelligence briefing, said Russia was now likely to be concentrating equipment on the frontline in the direction of Siversk, about five miles west of the current Russian frontline.
But Russian forces are pausing to replenish before undertaking new offensive operations in the Donetsk region, the MoD said. Meanwhile, British troops have begun training the first batch of Ukrainian soldiers that recently arrived in the UK.
Members of the 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade are running courses for the troops at a site near Manchester.
The courses, which last several weeks, are based on the UK’s basic soldier training and include weapons drills, battlefield first aid, field craft, patrol tactics and training on the law of armed conflict.
Platoon sergeant Dan Hayes, 31, from the 3 Rifles battalion, was at the training camp as new recruits to the Ukrainian army are monitored.