Russian President Vladimir Putin is telling foreign powers that Moscow won’t tolerate any interference in its sphere of influence.
In his annual state of the nation address, Putin warned other countries against crossing “red lines”, promising Russia will respond “harshly”, “quickly”, and “asymmetrically” to any provocation.
“We really don’t want to burn the bridges,” Putin said. “But if some mistake our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intend to burn or even blow up those bridges themselves, Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, quick, and tough.”
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The aggressive, authoritarian Russian ruler also trumpeted his nation’s increasing investment in hypersonic weapons and ballistic missiles. Putin praised Russia’s development of a nuclear-armed Poseidon underwater drone and the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.
This comes as Russia menaces neighboring Ukraine, moving an estimated 150,000 troops to the border and increasing naval activity in the Black Sea.
Wednesday, the U.S. State Department called on Moscow to draw down its massive military force encircling Ukraine. And the Biden administration imposed new sanctions on Russia last week for interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and for involvement in the massive SolarWind cyberattack against U.S. federal agencies.
Meanwhile, nearly 1,500 people were arrested across Russia as a wave of protests started rolling out in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny who has been targeted and imprisoned by Putin because he represents a threat to Putin’s power. Thousands marched in central Moscow, where police blocked off a square next to the Kremlin.
Navalny, a persistent critic of Putin who was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent last year, has now been on a hunger strike for three weeks against inadequate medical treatment in his prison. His health reportedly is in severe decline with his life at stake.