Putin today promised to shore up Russian achievements in Ukraine during a state of the nation address, ahead of next Monday’s elections in which the winner is expected. And in what has been seen as a veiled allusion to French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks earlier this week about “not ruling out” the future deployment of Western ground troops in Ukraine, putting that idea into practice would have “tragic” consequences for the countries that decide to do so.

Putin has said that with the excuse that Russia plans to attack NATO countries, Western allies are “selecting targets to attack our territory and choosing the most efficient, according to them, thinking about attacking assets and even suggesting the possibility of sending a NATO contingent to Ukraine. “We remember the tragic fate of those who previously sent their contingents of troops to our territory,” the Russian leader continued. “Now the consequences for potential invaders would be much more tragic.”

Before an audience of legislators and senior officials, Putin pointed out in his speech echoed by the Associated Press (AP) that the West should keep in mind that “we also have weapons that can attack targets on its territory.” “What you are now suggesting truly scares the world, because it poses the real threat of a nuclear conflict that would mean the destruction of our civilization.” “Don’t you understand?” he has blurted out.

He assures that Western leaders “are playing with the idea of ​​​​doing simulations”, which would mean a deeper involvement in the conflict. “These people have not gone through any difficult challenges and have forgotten what war means,” she said.

The blunt statement follows earlier warnings: Putin has made frequent reminders of Russia’s nuclear power since sending troops to Ukraine in February 2022, as he sought to dissuade the West from expanding its military support to kyiv.

Putin has already recalled that Russia’s nuclear forces are “fully prepared” and that the army has deployed new and powerful weapons, some of them already used on the Ukrainian battlefield.

The Kremlin leader has detailed some such as the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile that has entered service with the Russian nuclear forces, along with the Burevestnik atomic-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon atomic-powered nuclear-armed drone, which they are completing. their tests, to which they add the Kinzhal and Zircon hypersonic missiles that “have proven their effectiveness” on the Ukrainian battlefield.

Putin also denies the veracity of statements by Western leaders regarding the threat of a Russian attack against NATO allies in Europe, words that he has branded as “ravings,” and has again refuted Washington’s claim that Moscow was considering the deployment of atomic weapons in space.

According to him, the US accusations are part of a ploy to draw Russia into talks on nuclear arms control on US terms, even as Washington continues its efforts to deliver a “strategic defeat” to Moscow in Ukraine. “Before the American elections they just want to make their citizens, as well as others, see that they continue to rule the world,” he said. “It will not work”.

Putin’s speech has focused mainly on economic and social issues ahead of the presidential elections to be held from March 15 to 17, in addition to recalling that Russia is “defending its sovereignty and security and protecting our compatriots” in Ukraine, and assures that the Russian forces have an advantage in the fight, he said, greeting the Russian soldiers and honoring those who died in the fighting with a few moments of silence.

Putin has repeated on numerous occasions that he sent troops to Ukraine in February 2022 to “protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a significant threat to Russia’s security by joining NATO,” despite the fact that Kiev and its allies have done so. reported as an unprovoked act of aggression. He has also insisted that his desire is to negotiate an end to the fighting, while maintaining Russian achievements.

Putin, 71, is running as an independent candidate in the presidential election and is confident in the tight control over the Russian political system that he has established during 24 years in power.

Prominent critics who might challenge him have been jailed or living abroad, while most independent media have been banned, making Putin’s re-election all but assured.

He faces only token opposition from three other candidates nominated by pro-Kremlin parties represented in parliament. Russia’s best-known opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, whose attempt to run against Putin in 2018 was rejected, died suddenly earlier this month in an Arctic prison while serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges. His funeral is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday.