Putin’s State of the Union focuses on sovereignty, the West and Ukraine

In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin addresses the audience during the Future Technologies Forum at the World Trade Center in Moscow on February 14, 2024.

Alexander Kazakov | AFP | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is united as it faces the threats of “international terrorism” and challenges to its sovereignty posed by the “colonial West” that, he said, was trying to “bring discord to our home.”

“We shall overcome everything together,” Putin said as he introduced his address, according to a BBC feed. He praised Russian citizens, industries and businesses, and the country’s troops in Ukraine, for their efforts in defending “the Motherland.”

“We have proven that we are prepared to solve the most difficult tasks and rise to the most difficult challenges,” Putin said.

“For example, we have repelled the aggression of international terrorism, we have preserved the unity of the country, we have stopped it being torn apart, we have supported our brothers and sisters and their desire to be with Russia,” he said, adding: “Our Motherland is standing up for its sovereignty and security.”

The Russian leader led a minute’s silence to honor Russia’s armed forces, then extolled the “colossal” battlefield experience they gained during the two years of fighting in Ukraine.

Putin said Russian forces were on the offensive and were “liberating” new territories in Ukraine, once again repeating unsubstantiated claims that Russia is seeking to overthrow a “Nazi” regime in the country. He added that the West had provoked the conflict in Ukraine, and the Middle East.

Putin covered a range of topics, including Russia’s advanced weapons systems and the danger of a nuclear conflict with the West if NATO troops were deployed in Ukraine. He accused the West of trying to drag Moscow into an “arms race,” adding that Russia was ready for dialogue with the U.S. on “strategic stability” but would not be forced into talks.

Putin then turned to domestic matters, encouraging Russians to have large families and indicating his desire to tackle low incomes and increase life expectancy in Russia.

The speech is being delivered to around 1,000 lawmakers and officials, faith leaders, diplomats and journalists. As was the case last year, participants in Russia’s “special military operation” (code for war) in Ukraine have also been invited to the event — Putin’s 19th address of its kind.

The topics of the address are not usually revealed ahead of the speech, but Putin said last week that the upcoming message takes into account “the internal political calendar” and will set Russia’s goals for the next six years. His speech comes less than a month before the presidential election on March 15-17 that Putin is expected to win given the lack of non-systemic opposition figures in Russia.

There’s speculation that Putin could use his State of the Nation address on Thursday to make some announcement about Transnistria, potentially even bolstering Russia’s small military presence in the separatist region.

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