Vladimir Putin has slammed the West for ‘picking on Russia for no reason’ and warned against any country crossing his ‘red line’ as he gave his annual state-of-the-union address on Wednesday.
The speech comes at a time of heightened tensions at home and abroad over the situation in Ukraine where 120,000 of his troops are stationed and the ailing health of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The president said his military is constantly being developed as he reminded lawmakers of Russia’s formidable weaponry.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address in Manezh, Moscow,
The leader also said Moscow would respond in a harsh and swift way to any foreign provocations after complaining of continued unfounded and unfriendly acts against Russia.
He accused the West of ignoring claims that Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s security services had thwarted an alleged US plot to assassinate him, and were instead focusing on Ukraine.
He said: ‘Everyone pretends that nothing is happening at all.
‘What would have happened if the coup d’etat attempt had been actually undertaken? How many people would have suffered?’
Earlier in his speech delivered to lawmakers, he spoke about issues at home as he aimed for herd immunity from Covid by autumn.
The speech will be followed by nationwide protests in 100 cities in support of the hunger striking opposition leader who is ‘very weak’ and being denied treatment in prison hospital, his lawyers claim.
The president said in his opening remarks on Wednesday: ‘I’m appealing to all citizens of Russia: get vaccinated. There’s no other way to defeat the pandemic.
‘Vaccination is now of paramount importance… to allow herd immunity to develop in the fall.’
The president proposed new incentives to help the economy overcome the blow from the pandemic and new social payments to the population
He added that the three vaccines produced in Russia are a ‘direct embodiment of our country’s growing scientific and technological potential’.
Putin also said that he wants life expectancy to increase to 78 by 2030 as he thanked the various frontline workers who helped during the pandemic.
The president proposed new incentives to help the economy overcome the blow from the pandemic and new social payments to the population.
Later, Putin vowed that Russia, one of the world’s oil and gas producing giants, would do its part to fight climate change and develop carbon recycling.
‘We must respond to the challenges of climate change, create a carbon recycling industry,’ Putin said in his address.
His comments, some of his strongest on climate change which also vowed to slash greenhouse gas emissions to the same level as the EU, come a week before a virtual climate summit hosted by Joe Biden.
Later he will likely address foreign issues such as the military buildup on the Ukraine border and relations with the West as he speaks to lawmakers and regional heads in Russia.
It is not known if the president will mention Navalny whose prison plight has received little attention on state-run news channels.
The speech will be followed by nationwide protests in 100 cities in support of the hunger striking opposition leader Alexei Navalny
Just hours before his speech, Russian police swept in on supporters of Navalny and detained his aides and stormed their offices.
Two close aides were detained by police in Moscow while monitors reported police raids on Navalny’s offices in Saint Petersburg and arrests of his supporters across the country.
At last year’s state of the nation address, Putin announced his plans to overhaul the constitution, allowing him to effectively rule until 2036.
This year’s speech comes as the president faces sharp criticism at home and abroad.
In recent weeks, sanctions and diplomatic expulsions between Moscow and the US have worsened relations between Putin and the new Joe Biden administration.
The new president recently asserted that his Russian counterpart was a ‘killer’ and also accused the Kremlin of interfering in the 2020 election and launching cyber attacks on US government agencies.
Manezhnaya Square is blocked by law enforcement officers ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s annual address to the Federal Assembly
Russia responded in kind by expelling diplomats and summoning the US envoy to the foreign ministry for a ‘difficult conversation’.
Biden has tried to calm down the hostilities by offering to arrange a summit, which Putin has viewed ‘positively’.
But the situation in Ukraine has also heightened tensions between the two powers as the US and NATO called on Russia to ease tensions on the border and scale back its military presence.
At least 80,000 Russian troops are thought to be amassed around eastern Ukraine and Crimea with a further 30,000 expected to arrive by the end of the month according to Ukrainian government reports seen by the Daily Mail.
CIA director William Burns told Congress: ‘This is something not only the United States but our allies have to take very seriously. The build-up could provide the basis for a limited military incursion.’
Alexei Navalny’s doctors were again denied access to the jailed Kremlin critic on Tuesday despite growing concern over the hunger-striking Russian opposition figure’s failing health
Last week President Putin blockaded the strategically important Kerch Strait and Russian warships moved into position to cut off sea access to Ukraine’s south-eastern coastline and eastern Crimea.
Russia’s proposal is for Ukraine to federalise and for the breakaway regions to be granted autonomy, but the Ukrainian government and its Western allies are against the plans.
At home, Russia’s stagnating living standards and rising prices have caused concern among Putin’s support as the country continues to fight its way out of the Covid pandemic.
The vaccine rollout of the three homemade jabs has been besieged by delays in production and distribution.