Gulf News

Putin warns West: Do not cross the red line

VOWS SWIFT, HARSH RESPONSE TO ANY PROVOCATIO­NS

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President Vladimir Putin warned the West yesterday not to cross Russia’s “red lines”, saying Moscow would respond swiftly and harshly to any provocatio­ns in a way that would force those behind them to regret their actions.

Putin made his comments at a time when relations with the United States and Europe are under acute strain over Ukraine and the health of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“We want good relations … and really don’t want to burn bridges,” Putin said in his annual state of the nation address to both houses of parliament.

“But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifferen­ce or weakness and intends to burn down or even blow up these bridges, they should know that Russia’s response will be asymmetric­al, swift and harsh.”

Russia would determine where its red line lay in each specific case, he said. His comments came at the climax of a 78-minute speech dominated by Russia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic hardship.

Recent weeks have seen an intensific­ation of confrontat­ion between Russia and Western countries which say Moscow is massing tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine.

Last week, Washington tightened sanctions on Russia over accusation­s of computer hacking and election interferen­ce, and the Czech Republic accused Moscow of a role in explosions at an arms depot in 2014.

Tit-for-tat expulsions

Both expelled Russian diplomats. Russia denied wrongdoing and responded with tit-fortat expulsions.

Putin made no mention of Navalny, the jailed opposition politician three weeks into a hunger strike, whose supporters were beginning a series of rolling protests across Russia.

Two of Navalny’s closest allies were arrested yesterday, their lawyers said. Lyubov Sobol, one of the faces of Navalny’s popular YouTube channel, and Kira Yarmysh, his spokeswoma­n, were both detained in Moscow.

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Putin gives his state of the nation address in Moscow yesterday.
AP ■ Putin gives his state of the nation address in Moscow yesterday.

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