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From New START Freeze to Reasons for Ukraine Op: Key Takeaways From Putin's Federal Assembly Address

© Sputnik / POOL / Go to the mediabankPutin addresses Federal Assembly, February 21, 2023
Putin addresses Federal Assembly, February 21, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.02.2023
Vladimir Putin delivered an annual address to the Federal Assembly on February 21, underscoring that his speech came at a “borderline time of drastic changes in the world, defining the future of the entire country.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin focused on the crisis in Ukraine and the broader global security crisis as he delivered the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor venue in Moscow on February 21.
Putin underscored that this was a “milestone time” for Russia, fraught with “radical, irreversible changes” reverberating throughout the world. The Russian leader specified that the historical events that are currently taking shape would “determine the future of our country and our people, when the enormous responsibility lies with each of us."
Here are some of the key takeaways from the speech, which was broadcast live by leading television channels.

New START Suspended

The president made a big announcement during his speech, saying that Russia is suspending its participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

"I have to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Let me say it again — [Russia] does not withdraw from the treaty, but specifically suspends its participation. But before returning to discussing it, we need to understand what countries such as France and the United Kingdom consider to be as their strategic arsenals, and how we will take them into account, that is, the combined strike potential of the [North Atlantic] Alliance," Putin said.

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According to the Russian head of state, Washington had put forth an unacceptable ultimatum to Russia concerning the New START.

"Now, through representatives of NATO, in fact, they are putting forward an ultimatum — 'Russia should fulfill everything you agreed to, including the START Treaty, and we will behave as we please,' as if there is no connection between the problems of START and, say, the conflict in Ukraine, or other hostile actions against our country. As if there are no loud statements that they want to inflict a strategic defeat to us," Putin said.

Vladimir Putin also told the Federal Assembly that there was information that the United States was considering the possibility of full-scale tests of their nuclear weapons, adding that the Russian Ministry of Defense and Rosatom must be ready to test Russian nuclear weapons if Washington really does conduct the test first.
Amid the drastically deteriorated Russian-US relations, which are Washington's "accomplishment," according to Putin, he said he had signed a decree to put new strategic ground-based complexes on combat duty. Russia will also implement the most advanced developments to improve the potential of the Army and Navy, Putin added.
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"We have such developments and samples of weapons and equipment in every area. Many of them are substantially superior to their foreign analogues," Putin said, noting that such work is underway, and its pace is constantly increasing.

Russia Not At War With Ukrainians

As anticipated, in his address the Russian president predominantly focused on the situation in Ukraine, where Russia has been conducting a special military operation since February 24, 2022. Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia was not at war with the people of the neighboring country. The people of Ukraine are "hostages to the regime in Kiev and its Western masters," as their country is being used as a "tool" and "launchpad" for a conflict against Russia, the president stated.
Putin said that Russia had done everything possible to solve the Donbass problem by peaceful means. However, a year ago Russia was forced to step in to “protect people living in Russia’s historic lands, to eliminate the threat of the Nazi regime" that hung over the region, whose people had been "fighting for their right to live on their own land, speak in their native language" since the 2014 coup in Ukraine that was backed by the West.

"Promises of the Western rulers, their statements about a desire to establish peace in Donbass turned into, as we now see, a forgery, a cruel lie. They were just playing for time, engaging in chicanery, turning a blind eye to political assassinations and the repression of the Kiev regime," Putin said in his address.

In a reference to the 2015 Minsk peace accords, which the former German and French leaders have since admitted were not aimed at bringing the crisis in the Donbass to an end, but were a "bluff" aimed at preparing the Kiev regime for war against Russia, Putin blasted the West for behaving "as if they are proud of and revel in their treachery."

"It turns out that for the whole time that Donbass was on fire, when blood was being shed, when Russia sincerely - I would like to emphasize this - sincerely strove for a peaceful solution, they were playing with people's lives, playing, in fact, with marked cards," Putin said.

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Those preparing an attack on Donbass last February had also planned to attack Crimea next, as well as Sevastopol, Putin said. He added that today, Kiev does not mince words about such plans, "revealing what we already knew perfectly well."

"We did everything we could, really everything, to solve this problem by peaceful means. We patiently held negotiations on a peaceful way out of this extremely tough conflict. But a very different scenario was prepared behind our backs," the president said.

As far as the ongoing military operation in Ukraine was concerned, Putin assured that "step by step, we will carefully and consistently solve the tasks facing us."
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Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
Calling Crimea 'Legitimate Target' for Strikes Shows US as Instigator of Tensions, Kremlin Says

Western Elites a 'Symbol of Unprincipled Lies'

On a broader scale, Vladimir Putin pointed out that Russia had spent many years seeking a constructive dialogue with the West. However, all attempts to propose an equality-based system of joint security were met with a "hypocritical" response. Putin accused the US and its allies of playing the "same double game" in the current proxy war against Russia in Ukraine as they had in the case of other countries.
"[The West] behaved just as shamelessly, duplicitously, destroying Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria. They will never be able to wash themselves clean of this shame. The concepts of honor, trust, decency are foreign to them. They are used to spitting on the world, and it turned out that they treat the peoples of their own countries in the same way," Putin said.
In December 2021, Moscow officially sent NATO drafts of an agreement on security guarantees, as well as a request that the alliance abandon its plans to expand into Ukraine, but received a direct refusal on all points. "At that time it finally became crystal clear that the go-ahead for aggression had been given," Putin told those gathered at Gostiny Dvor in Moscow, near Red Square.
The Western elites have become "a symbol of totally unprincipled lies," the Russian president said, underscoring how from the expansion of NATO towards Russia’s borders to deploying secret biolabs in its proximity, the US and its allies had been purposefully gearing up to use Ukraine as a tool in a “big war.”
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"Elites of the West are not concealing their goal to inflict, like they are saying, it is a direct quote, a strategic defeat on Russia. They mean to end us once and for all. So they intend to turn a local conflict into the global confrontation," the president stressed.

West Opens 'Economic Front' Against Russia

The West drummed up sweeping sanctions against Moscow over its operation in Ukraine, but failed to "cripple" Russia's economy, Putin stated. In fact, the punitive measures have had a boomerang effect, punishing their masterminds, and generating an energy crisis.

"The West has opened not only military and information fronts [against Russia], but also an economic one. But no one has achieved anything anywhere and will not achieve anything further. Moreover, those who have initiated sanctions, are punishing themselves. They have spurred inflation in their countries, job losses, closure of companies, the energy crisis," the Russian president said.

Furthermore, the West has been trying to destabilize the Russian society from within by wielding its sanctions campaign, but failed, Putin remarked.
"Sanctions against Russia are only a means, and the goal, as the Western leaders themselves declare ... is to make our citizens suffer, to make [them] suffer ... They want to make the people suffer, thereby destabilizing our society from within. But their calculation was not justified," Putin said.
As many Western countries are facing runaway inflation, in Russia it is set to approach the target level of 4% in the second quarter of 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

"According to estimates, inflation in Russia will approach the target level of 4% already in the second quarter of this year. Let me remind you that in some EU countries, it [inflation] is already 17%, 12%, 20%. We have 4%, well, almost 5%," Putin stated.

While Western countries went on their sanctions rampage against Russia, hoping to crash the ruble, the country ensured that the share of the domestic currency in foreign trade payments doubled over the past year, amounting to a third, the Russian president said, adding that "given the currencies of friendly countries, this is more than half."
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Russia's economy turned out to be more resilient than the West anticipated, the Russian president emphasized.

"What means were used against us in this sanctions aggression? They tried to sever economic ties with Russian companies, disconnect the financial system from communication channels in order to destroy our economy, deprive us of access to export markets in order to target revenues. This is theft, there is no other way to say it, of our foreign exchange reserves, attempts to crash the ruble and provoke devastating inflation," Putin concluded.

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