By Athena Papakosta

Vladimir Putin warned NATO Member States that they risk nuclear conflict if they send troops to Ukraine.

With his warning, the president of Russia was referring to the statements of his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, who a few days ago had not ruled out the possibility of sending Western troops to the country of Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Western countries must understand that we, too, have weapons that can hit targets on their own territories,” he said characteristically and continued adding that “we remember the fate of those who once sent their troops to our country.”

Pointing to the past and the fortunes of Hitler and Napoleon, Vladimir Putin then turned to the present and accused Western leaders of treating the ongoing war in Ukraine as if they were watching cartoons while remaining… blinded by a “syndrome superiority”.

According to him, the “absolute majority” of his country supported his decision to invade Ukraine and the Russian people are united against “the West’s attempts to weaken Russia.”

However, insisting on referring to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Russian president made it clear that it will continue, pointing out that “we will do everything to eliminate Nazism and achieve all our goals.” He also said that “Russia did not start this war” and asserted that “the fighting capabilities of the Russian armed forces have multiplied” while “our troops are advancing (…) and liberating territories.”

He explained that the West is trying to trick his country into a “Soviet-style” arms race and made it clear that, after Finland and Sweden join NATO, military forces on Russia’s western border with the European Union will be strengthened. .

Keeping the nuclear card on the table, he pointed out that “our strategic nuclear forces are in a state of readiness” while rejecting as “unsubstantiated” the “accusations of the United States that we are going to deploy nuclear weapons in space”. In a similar style, he rejected the accusations that Moscow is preparing for an attack on Europe.

Guys, skiing and no alcohol

In the second half of his speech, Vladimir Putin focused more on domestic issues, talking among other things about the economy, pensions, and the low birth rate in Russia that is exacerbating the country’s demographic problem.

“We see what is happening in some countries where moral norms and the institution of the family are deliberately destroyed, leading entire peoples to extinction and destruction” he said to add – calling on Russians to have children – “we choose life”.

He also called on citizens to stop consuming large amounts of alcohol and start skiing in order to increase life expectancy.

Even in that speech, of course, there was absolutely no mention of his staunchest critic, Alexei Navalny, who breathed his last two weeks ago under unclear circumstances in a remote Arctic prison and will be buried today, Friday in Moscow.

The annual speech by the president of Russia lasted more than two hours and was interrupted more than 80 times because of… applause. As reported by the British BBC correspondent in Moscow, Steve Rosenberg, it was broadcast on huge screens throughout the Russian capital and was even shown in cinemas completely free of charge and live.

In Russia in about two weeks from today the presidential elections will be held. Vladimir Putin will come down to the “arena” ready to win after “fighting” without an opponent and remains (all) ready for (another) six-year term.