Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a major speech to Russia’s political and military elite, assessing the Ukraine invasion.
Putin announced that Russia has suspended participation from the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, a treaty to mutually decrease and limit strategic nuclear weapons signed between US and Russia in 2002.
He also said Russia needs to be ready to test nuclear weapons if the US does so first. However, Putin ruled out Russia making a first nuclear strike.
The Russian president pledged to “systematically” press on with Moscow’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, blaming the West for starting the war.
He also claimed that Russia is not at war with the Ukrainian people but with “their regime that holds the people hostage.”
Putin has frequently justified his invasion of his neighbor by accusing Western countries of threatening Russia.
They say nothing could be further from the truth and that Moscow’s forces attacked Ukraine unprovoked.
“It’s they who have started the war. And we are using force to end it,” Putin said before an audience of lawmakers, state officials and soldiers who have fought in Ukraine.
Russian economy has withstood Western sanctions, he added. Putin also celebrated Russia’s soldiers and promised to set up a special fund for their relatives.
The speech, which he postponed in December, comes ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Friday.
Putin has also warned the West against supplying additional military aid to Ukraine, saying such support will draw a military response from Moscow.
The Russian president railed against same-sex marriages and “corrupt Western values.” Under him, the Russian government has expanded anti-LGBTQ laws in recent years.
His address comes after several high-stakes diplomatic moves, including US President Joe Biden
’s visit to Kyiv. Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has also arrived in Kyiv.