(Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin used a speech to a summit of BRICS leaders on Wednesday to defend Russia's war in Ukraine and praise the grouping as a counterbalance to U.S. global dominance.
Speaking by video link to leaders of the group, he repeated the Kremlin narrative that his invasion, condemned by Ukraine and the West as an imperialist land grab, was a forced response by Russia to Kyiv's and Washington's hostile actions.
"Our actions in Ukraine are dictated by only one thing - to end the war that was unleashed by the West and its satellites against the people who live in the Donbas," Putin said, referring to the eastern part of Ukraine where Russian proxies have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.
"I want to note that it was the desire to maintain their hegemony in the world, the desire of some countries to maintain this hegemony that led to the severe crisis in Ukraine."
Putin was speaking to a forum of countries that have refrained from condemning Russia's actions in Ukraine. The BRICS - also including Brazil, India, China and South Africa - have taken on added importance for Moscow as it seeks to blunt Western sanctions by boosting trade with Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Russia has repeatedly said it is open to talks to end the 18-month war - but only if they take account of the "new realities" created by its forces who control nearly a fifth of Ukraine. Ukraine demands the restoration of all its territory and the removal of Russian troops.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who in June presented an African peace plan separately to Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in response to the Russian president's speech that BRICS members would continue to support efforts to bring the conflict to an end.
Strengthening BRICS forms part of Russia’s vision of undermining U.S. dominance and building what Putin, in his speech, called "a multipolar world order".
He was unable to attend the summit in person because of an arrest warrant issued for him in March by the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine.
Russia rejected the accusation as outrageous and said the move had no legal meaning because it is not a member of the ICC. South Africa is a member, however, meaning it would have been obliged to arrest him if he had travelled there.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Andrew Osborn)