Friday, May 24, 2024

Putin says West sending troops to Ukraine would risk ‘destruction of civilization’

(BBC News) In his annual state of the nation address, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned western countries against sending troops to Ukraine.

The consequences of such a decision would be “tragic”, he said.

Putin accused the West of trying to drag Russia into an arms race.

At the same time, he said that Russia needed to strengthen its defences on its western border now that Sweden and Finland were joining NATO.

Putin said the West “provoked” the conflict in Ukraine and “continues to lie, without any embarrassment, saying that Russia allegedly intends to attack Europe.”

Probably referring to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week that sending NATO ground troops to Ukraine “could not be excluded”, Putin said: “The consequences for possible interventionists will be… tragic.”

“We also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory,” he added.

“All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don’t they get that?”

Several NATO countries, including the U.S., Germany, and the UK, ruled out deploying ground troops to Ukraine.

Putin also boasted about Russia’s sophisticated weapons – such as hypersonic aircraft and unmanned underwater vehicles – and said that Russia’s strategic nuclear forces are in a “state of full readiness.”

Putin explicitly referred to the two years of fighting in Ukraine as a “war”, despite his repeated insistence that Russia’s invasion should be described as a “special military operation.”

He said that an “absolute majority” of Russians supported his decision to invade Ukraine, and that the Russian people were now united against what he called western attempts to weaken the country.

He also hit out at accusations from the U.S. that Russia is developing nuclear weapons for use against satellites in space.

The speech came just over two weeks before Russia’s presidential election, in which Putin is widely expected to win a fifth term in office.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the address could “to a large degree be seen as [Putin’s] election program.”

Much of the address focused on domestic issues ranging from the modernization of the tax system to pensions and incentives aimed at boosting Russia’s dwindling birth rate.

He also talked about the need to improve the health of the nation, announcing a series of measures aimed at boosting Russia’s life expectancy, which at 70 is currently one of the lowest in Europe.

Urging people to focus on physical activity and cut down alcohol consumption, he joked: “Stop drinking and start skiing!”

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