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Putin Claims West Seeks Russia's Destruction


FILE: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the 19th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow. Taken Oct 27, 2022.

UPDATED AGAIN TO INCLUDE NATO, KYIV REACTIONS: President Vladimir Putin, in making his speech marking a year since his attack on Ukraine, vowed Tuesday to continue that war and accused the U.S.-led NATO alliance of fanning the flames of the conflict in the mistaken belief that it could defeat Moscow in a global confrontation.

Besides the promise to continue the war and warnings to the West of a global confrontation, Putin also sought to justify the war, saying it had been forced on Russia and that he understood the pain of the families of those who had fallen in battle.

"The people of Ukraine have become the hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western overlords, who have effectively occupied this country in the political, military and economic sense," Putin said.

"They intend to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation. This is exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly, because in this case we are talking about the existence of our country."

Putin put the blame for his own invasion of Ukraine, stating "The responsibility for fueling the Ukrainian conflict, for its escalation, for the number of victims... lies completely with Western elites," Putin said.

Defeating Russia, he said, was impossible. The 70-year-old Kremlin chief said Russia would never yield to Western attempts to divide its society, adding that a majority of Russians supported the war.

As for those societal divisions, exemplified by the war's denouncement and the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Russians who did not want to be conscripted and forced to fight in Ukraine, Putin's speech contained this warning: "Those who have embarked on the path of betrayal of Russia must be held accountable under the law," Putin said, adding that authorities would not unleash a "witch hunt" against dissenters.

The speech contained an important development - President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday Moscow's suspension of its participation in the last remaining arms control treaty between the world's two main nuclear powers, Russia and the United States.

"I have to announce that Russia is suspending its participation in the New START treaty," Putin said in his state of the nation address. "No one should be under the illusion that global strategic parity can be violated."

To the arms control community this is a significant development. Russia has been involved in the development of new missile systems, including hypersonic missiles. Without arms control agreements, such developments can take place "in the dark" without international knowledge and oversight.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg slammed Russia for suspending THE nuclear weapons limitation treaty with the US, saying it marked the end of Europe's post-Cold War arms control architecture.

"I regret today's decision by Russia to suspend its participation in the New START treaty," Stoltenberg told a news conference.

"Over the last years Russia has violated and walked away from key arms control agreements. With today's decision on New START the whole arms control architecture has been dismantled."

In response to Putin, a top US official on Tuesday described the Russian leader's claims that Russia had been threatened by the West as justification for invading Ukraine as "absurdity."

"Nobody is attacking Russia. There's a kind of absurdity in the notion that Russia was under some form of military threat from Ukraine or anyone else," White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters.

Russia's foreign ministry on Tuesday summoned US ambassador Lynne Tracy to hand her a note demanding that the US withdraw "soldiers and equipment" from Ukraine - a reference to Western military assistance for the country.

"It was noted in particular that in order to de-escalate the situation, Washington should take steps to ensure the withdrawal of US-NATO soldiers and equipment and also stop its anti-Russian activities," the statement said.

Kyiv on Tuesday vowed to "kick out" and "punish" Russia, just after President Vladimir Putin delivered a state of the nation address.

"They are strategically at a dead end," Ukraine's presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram shortly after Putin's speech ended. "Our goal is to kick them out of Ukraine and punish them for everything."

This report was compiled from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.