Putin warns West against crossing ‘red line’

Carrie Guzman
April 22, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address at The Federal Assembly at The Manezh Exhibition Hall in Moscow on April 21, 2021.

Vladimir Putin delivers a state of the nation address on Wednesday (21 April) as Russian Federation deals with a crisis in ties with the West and faces calls for mass protests in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Moscow's already frayed ties with the West have come under further strain with the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as well as escalating military tensions in eastern Ukraine.

Rallies held earlier this year in support of Navalny were broken up by force, with thousands of arrests.

The West has backed the calls for Navalny to be freed and provided with medical care, one of a litany of disputes that have raised tensions with Moscow to new highs.

In his speech, Putin also said he would direct his country to continue to modernize its military.

According to him, organisers of any provocations that threaten the core interests of our security will regret their actions like they have regretted nothing for a long time.

Supporters of President Vladimir Putin's most prominent opponent fear he soon could die in prison, where he is on hunger strike, and are demanding he be given proper medical care. The U.S. ordered 10 Russian diplomats expelled, targeted dozens of companies and individuals, and imposed new curbs on Russia's ability to borrow money.

"But I have to say we were able to regroup and organize our work despite the pressure before".

"If someone interprets our good intentions as indifference or weakness and is willing to cross a "red line" they should know that Russia's response will be asymmetric, fast and tough", Putin stated.

"But I hope that no one will think of crossing the so-called red line in relation to Russian Federation".

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He did not define where the "red line" would be on a number of issues, but said "we will determine where it is ... in each case".

Much of Putin's speech was devoted to new social spending, as he looked to shore up support for his deeply unpopular United Russia party ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

Numerous protesters were seized before protests even began, including two top Navalny associates in Moscow.

The largest of the protests took place in Moscow, where thousands marched through the center city.

"You can treat Presidents [Viktor] Yanukovich, [Nicolas] Maduro, and [Alexander] Lukashenko as you like, but the practice of political assassinations goes beyond all boundaries", Putin said, citing former Ukrainian leader Yanukovich - ousted in 2014 - as well as the current leaders of Venezuela and Belarus, both of whose legitimacy has been questioned.

Spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said she was also detained at the entrance to the building, while independent monitor OVD-Info said police had conducted searches and detained at least 53 people in 27 cities. "We need to fight this darkness".

The Kremlin's fiercest foe was arrested in January after returning from Germany where he was undergoing rehabilitation after being poisoned with the nerve agent novichok, which he blames on the Kremlin.

He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years on old fraud charges his supporters say were politically motivated and has been serving time in a penal colony about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Moscow.

His health has been failing since he launched a hunger strike three weeks ago.

Doctors over the weekend warned that the 44-year-old's health was deteriorating to such an extent he could die at "any minute", while the United States threatened Russian Federation with "consequences" in the event of his death.

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