ASTANA (Reuters) -- President Vladimir Putin used a speech to Asian leaders on Thursday to develop a theme that he has pressed more intensely as Russia's military fortunes have waned: that Moscow is fighting the West to establish a fairer world.
With Western economic sanctions also tightening, Putin has shifted his emphasis from fighting alleged "fascists" in Kyiv to confronting a "collective West" that is arming Ukraine with the supposed aim of expanding its influence at Russia's expense.
"The world is becoming truly multi-polar," Putin said. "And Asia, where new centers of power are emerging, plays a significant, if not key, role in it."
At a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in the Kazakh capital Astana, Putin described the West as a neo-colonial power bent on stunting the development of the rest of the world and exploiting poorer countries.
"Like many of our partners in Asia, we believe a revision is needed of the global financial system, which has for decades allowed the self-proclaimed so-called 'golden billion', who redirected all capital flows and technologies to themselves to live largely at others' expense," Putin said.
The members of the CICA have their own diverse agendas, however, and have also become more valuable to Russia as customers for the oil, gas and other commodities that it is finding hard to sell to the West.
The body includes several Central Asian ex-Soviet nations that regard Russia as their former colonial overlord - as well as China, India and some Arab and southeast Asian nations, which have benefited from close trading ties with the West and Japan.
Kazakh authorities this month rejected a demand from Russia that they expel Ukraine's ambassador, chiding Moscow for what they called an inappropriate tone between "equal strategic partners".
The phrase "golden billion" became popular in Russian political discourse in the 1990s as part of a theory positing that Western nations had conspired to exploit the resources of others, above all Russia, while keeping them poor and brainwashing their populations.
The theory also supports Putin's avowed aim of restoring Russia's status of global power by opposing what he sees as a United States-led cabal.
Kyiv and the West deny any intention to threaten or diminish Russia, which they say is waging a war of imperialist aggression against Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday described the war in Ukraine as part of a Russian "crusade" against liberal democracy.