Vladimir Putin warns the West: 'We have weapons that can hit your territory'

29 February 2024, 10:02 | Updated: 29 February 2024, 10:12

Vladimir Putin delivers his state-of-the-nation address in Moscow
Vladimir Putin delivers his state-of-the-nation address in Moscow. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Vladimir Putin has told the people of Russia that the country’s nuclear capabilities are at a state of ‘full readiness’ in a speech to the nation.

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During his annual state of the nation address Putin said: “Strategic nuclear forces are in a state of full readiness for guaranteed use. What we planned in the field of armaments, which I spoke about in my message in 2018, has all been done or this work is being completed.”

He also warned the West: “We also have weapons that can hit your territory.”

But he said that accusations Russia will attack Europe are nonsense.

He said: “We need to seriously strengthen the groups in the western direction so that we can deal with the threat of another expansion of Nato to the east, dragging in Sweden and Finland.

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“The west provoked conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East and other regions and continues to lie. Now they make no bones about saying Russia is about to attack Europe. but we understand this is total nonsense.”

He said Russia was "defending its sovereignty and security and protecting our compatriots" in Ukraine.

Mr Putin, 71, who is running as an independent candidate in the March 15-17 presidential election, relies on the tight control over Russia's political system that he has established during 24 years in power.

Prominent critics who could challenge him have either been imprisoned or are living abroad while most independent media has been banned, meaning that his re-election is all but assured.

Recently his most prominent critic Alexei Navalny died in a Russian jail with question marks remaining over the cause of his death ahead of his funeral tomorrow.

Putin faces token opposition from three other candidates nominated by Kremlin-friendly parties represented in parliament.

Russia's best-known opposition leader Mr Navalny, whose attempt to run against Mr Putin in 2018 was rejected, died suddenly in an Arctic prison colony earlier this month, while serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges. His funeral is set for Friday.

Mr Putin has repeatedly said that he sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022 to protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a major security threat to Russia by joining Nato. Kyiv and its allies have denounced it as an unprovoked act of aggression.

The Russian leader has repeatedly signalled a desire to negotiate an end to the fighting but warned that Russia will hold on to its gains.