Putin said that the pandemic had been a “sad and disappointing” setback to government efforts to overcome Russia’s demographic crisis. But he stressed that the government’s goal of increasing life expectancy to 78 years by 2030 remained within reach.
Putin opened his 17th state-of-the-nation address with a long section on the global coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s handling of the crisis that erupted in 2020. And although he admitted that it was a trying experience confronting “a new, previously unknown, and extremely dangerous infection,” his description of Russia’s response was uniformly upbeat
President Vladimir Putin thundered about Russia’s “red lines” in warnings aimed westward, extolled the virtues of parenthood, elaborately hailed the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and called for cash support for citizens struggling with stagnant incomes
Russia’s response will be swift, asymmetrical and severe,” Putin warned at Manezh exhibition hall next to the Kremlin.
He accused Western countries of levying “illegal” economic sanctions “to impose their will on others by force.”
“This is turning into some kind of sport — who can say something negative about Russia the loudest,” said Putin, noting that Moscow behaves “in a restrained and modest manner” in response.
“These days this practice is turning into something much more dangerous,” he warned, citing reports over the weekend that Russian and Belarusian security forces thwarted an alleged attempt to assassinate Belarus’ longtime leader.
“They have crossed all the lines,” the Russian president said to an audience of around 1,000 lawmakers, regional heads and other state officials.
In what appeared to be a warning to Russia’s struggling opposition movement led by jailed and hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, Putin said: “The organizers of any provocations threatening our core security interests will regret their actions more than they’ve regretted anything in a long time.”
The Kremlin later defined the “red lines” as “insults and interference, including in elections.”
Putin’s address took place as hundreds took to the streets of major cities in the Russian Far East in support of Navalny, whose failing health has drawn worldwide concern.
He spoke amid heightened tension with Ukraine, dissatisfaction at home over stagnating incomes and rising inflation, the coronavirus pandemic, new sanctions from the U.S. and growing pressure from the international community over allegations of spying and election interference. Russia’s already tense relationship with the West has further deteriorated in recent weeks, with new rounds of tit-for-tat sanctions and diplomatic expulsions between Moscow and the U.S. and a slew of European countries.
Despite the ominous warnings, Putin said during his state-of-the-nation address that Russia would not like to burn bridges with other countries.
“Russia is a welcoming country that’s open to its real friends.”
The Moscow Times’