Putin promises ‘swift and tough’ Russian response to enemies

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Poutine On Wednesday, the West sternly warned against further encroachment on Russia’s security interests, saying Moscow’s response will be “ swift and harsh ” and will make the culprits bitterly sorry for their action.
The warning during Putin’s annual State of the Nation address came amid a massive build-up of the Russian military near Ukraine, where ceasefire violations in the conflict of Seven Years between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have intensified in recent weeks. The United States and its allies urged the Kremlin to push back the troops.
“ I hope no one dares to cross the red line when it comes to Russia, and we will determine where it stands in each specific case, ” Putin said. “ Those who organize provocations threatening our fundamental security interests will regret their actions more than they regret anything for a long time. ”
Moscow dismissed Ukrainian and Western concerns about the build-up of troops, saying it did not threaten anyone and that Russia was free to deploy its forces on its territory. But the Kremlin has also warned Ukraine against any attempt to use force to regain control of the rebel-held east, saying Russia may be forced to intervene to protect civilians in the region.
“ We really don’t want to burn bridges, ” Putin said. “ But if some mistake our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intend to burn or even blow up these bridges themselves, Russia’s response will be asymmetric, swift and harsh. ”
As Putin spoke, a wave of protests began to roll across Russia in support of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and a human rights group said more than 1,000 people had been arrested. Thousands of people marched through central Moscow, where police blocked a square next to the Kremlin. St. Petersburg police blocked Palace Square, outside the Hermitage Museum, and protesters gathered along Nevsky Prospekt.
The politician, who is Putin’s most persistent critic and was poisoned by a chemical nerve agent last year, went on a hunger strike three weeks ago to protest what he called medical treatment inadequate and the authorities’ refusal to allow his doctor to visit him. His supporters have called the rallies because his health is said to be in severe decline.
In his speech, Putin highlighted the steps Russia is taking to modernize its nuclear arsenal and said the military will continue to build more advanced hypersonic missiles and other new weapons. He added that the development of the Poseidon nuclear submarine drone and the Burevestnik nuclear cruise missile is continuing successfully.
In an apparent reference to the United States and its allies, the Russian leader denounced those who impose “ illegal and politically motivated economic sanctions and crude attempts to enforce his will on others. ” He said Russia had shown restraint and often refrained from responding to the “ overtly boorish ” actions of others.
The Biden administration last week imposed new sanctions on Russia for interfering with the 2020 US presidential election and for its involvement in SolarWind’s hacking of federal agencies – activities Moscow has denied. The United States ordered the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats, targeted dozens of businesses and individuals, and placed further restrictions on Russia’s ability to borrow money.
Russia retaliated by ordering 10 U.S. diplomats to leave, blacklisting eight current and former U.S. officials and tightening requirements for U.S. embassy operations.
“ Russia has its own interests, which we will defend in accordance with international law, ” Putin said in Wednesday’s speech. “ If someone refuses to take this obvious, hesitates to engage in dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone, Russia will always find a way to defend its position. ”
In an emotional outburst, Putin rebuked the West for taking a position of defiance towards Russia.
“ Some countries have developed a bad habit of intimidating Russia for whatever reason or for no reason. It has become a new sport, ” he said.
In an apparent reference to American allies, he compared them to Tabaqui, a cowardly golden jackal bowing down to Shere Khan, the tiger from Rudyard Kipling’s “ Jungle Book. ” “ They are screaming to please their lord, ” he said.
Russia engaged this week in a tense standoff with the Czech Republic, following Prague’s decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats following a massive explosion of a Czech ammunition depot in 2014. Moscow dismissed Czech accusations of his involvement in the explosion as absurd and retaliated by expelling 20 Czech diplomats.
Putin also harshly criticized the West for failing to condemn what he described as a botched coup attempt and a failed plot to assassinate the Belarusian president. Alexander Lukashenko, allegedly involving a blockade of the country’s capital, power cuts and cyber attacks. Belarusian and Russian security agencies arrested alleged coup plotters in Moscow earlier this month.
“ The practice of staging coups and planning political assassinations of senior officials goes beyond and crosses all borders, ” Putin said, drawing parallels with plots against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the popular protests which led to the ousting of the former Ukrainian Russia. – sympathetic president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
Russia responded to Yanukovych’s ouster by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and supporting separatists in the east of the country. Since then, the fighting has killed more than 14,000 people and devastated the industrial heart.
Putin devoted most of his annual speech to national issues, praising the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He said the rapid development of three coronavirus vaccines underscored Russia’s technological and industrial potential. He called for a faster pace of vaccinations, expressing hope the country could get herd immunity this fall.
He offered incentives to help the economy recover from the pandemic and promised new social payments focused on families with children.