Putin warns against sending NATO troops to Ukraine, mentions risk of nuclear war

Western rhetoric threatens to lead to a "conflict with nuclear weapons", Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his annual address to parliamentarians on Thursday.

The speech included a clear warning to Western countries considering sending troops to Ukraine, an idea that French president Emmanuel Macron recently said he "could not rule out".

"They should understand that we, too, have weapons capable of hitting targets on their territory," Putin said, adding that the West's current rhetoric could lead to a "real risk" of a nuclear conflict "and, consequently, the destruction of civilisation".

"They should understand that we, too, have weapons capable of hitting targets on their territory"

He also criticised Western countries' intention to further increase their defence budgets. "We are aware that the West is trying to drag us into an arms race," Putin said. "In this way they want to exhaust us, to repeat the trick that worked with the Soviet Union in the 1980s".

At the same time, the idea that Russia wants to attack the West was dismissed as "nonsense". Putin said he was ready to talk to the United States and also refuted media reports about Russian plans to develop nuclear capabilities in space.

Domestic support

Putin also said that the war in Ukraine was clearly supported by "an absolute majority of the population", and thanked them for their support for the "special military operation". The Russian president also referred to Russia's occupation of Crimea, which began 10 years ago, saying he was proud of the annexation.

While Western countries received much criticism, Putin also used his speech to seek support from Arab, Latin American and African countries. He made positive comments about China's policies and said he was willing to sit down and talk with the United States.

The speech, which lasted more than two hours, came about two weeks before Russia's presidential elections. If Putin wins, he will remain president until 2030. He made no mention of the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who will be buried on Friday.

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