Vladimir Putin has blamed the West for provoking the war in Ukraine in his State of the Union address, saying the US and its allies seek “limitless power”.
The Russian leader declared that it was Ukraine and the West who started the war in his speech to the nation insisted the West is fuelling the conflict and also fighting an economic war – but that the West will never achieve anything.
“It’s they who have started the war and we are using force to end it,” Mr Putin said in a speech broadcast by all Russian state TV channels on Tuesday.
Putin told the crowd in Moscow he wants to build a safe system of international payments that will reduce dependence on the West.
“We must not repeat our mistakes. We must not destroy our economy”.
He says Western sanctions designed to make the Russian people “suffer” had not succeeded.
Putin also addressed concerns of the treatment of soldiers and conscripts.
“We all understand, I understand how unbearably hard it is now for the wives, sons, daughters of fallen soldiers, their parents, who raised worthy defenders of the Fatherland.”
Citing another justification he has used for the war, Mr. Putin claimed his forces are protecting civilians in regions of Ukraine that Moscow has since illegally annexed.
“We are defending people’s lives, our home,” he said. “And the West is striving for an unlimited domination.”
While the Constitution says the president should deliver the speech annually, Mr Putin never gave one in 2022 as his troops rolled into Ukraine and suffered repeated setbacks.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu, former president and PM Dmitry Medvedev, finance minister Andrei Siluanov, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Patriarch Kirill all attended the State of the Union speech.
The speech from Putin was postponed in December, and will now be delivered ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Friday –with some in Russia stating that the speech is expected to set the tone for the year ahead — including for Mr. Putin’s bogged-down campaign in Ukraine.
Political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya said Mr Putin’s speech “was expected to be very hawkish, aimed at defiantly breaking off relations with the West”, but after Mr Biden’s visit to Kyiv, “additional edits can be made to make it even harsher”.
On 21 February last year, the Russian leader announced his decision to recognise the independence of two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine: the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
Meanwhile, after paying an unannounced visit to Kyiv, the US president made his way to Warsaw on Monday on a mission to solidify Western unity as both Ukraine and Russia prepare to launch spring offensives.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Mr Biden would underscore in his Warsaw address that Russian President Vladimir Putin wrongly surmised “that Ukraine would cower and that the West would be divided” when he launched his invasion.
“He got the opposite of that across the board,” Mr Sullivan said.
While Mr. Biden is looking to use his whirlwind trip to Europe as a moment of affirmation for Ukraine and allies, the White House has also emphasised that there is no clear endgame to the war in the near term and the situation on the ground has become increasingly complex.