Putin warns West of harsh response to unfriendly acts
Russia vowed on Wednesday to quickly respond to unfriendly acts by the West, spare no effort to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and continue its weapons development, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his 17th State of the Nation Address in Moscow.
He said "unfriendly acts" against Russia by Western countries are continuing without any reason. "Attacking Russia has become some sort of new sport in the West," Putin said, adding that Russia would like to have good relations with every member of the international community.
He criticized Western countries that issue "illegal sanctions" to try to force their will on other nations.
In Wednesday's speech, Putin began, as expected, by mentioning the pandemic, which he said hit the entire world as a surprise.
Putin urged all Russians to get vaccinated and help develop "collective immunity".
Russia takes the challenges of COVID-19 seriously and aims for herd immunity against the coronavirus by autumn, he said.
He also noted the difficult time last year at the beginning of the pandemic, when hospitals were overflowing and supplies were short.
"But I never doubted that Russia would get through the hard time," Putin said, praising the country for "coming together".
"In that period, including during our meetings with experts and conversations with the leaders of many states, I often heard the following description of the situation: We are faced with total uncertainty. And this is how it really was," Putin recalled in the speech.
"Global healthcare is on the brink of a real revolution. We cannot miss it," Putin said.
He said the virus has not been defeated yet and still poses a direct threat, which is why there is still a need to abide by the necessary preventive measures to stop the virus from spreading.
As of Wednesday, the Russian anti-coronavirus crisis center reported over 8,200 daily COVID-19 cases, bringing the total tally to more than 4.7 million.
Turning attention to the military, Putin called on all countries to participate in arms-control talks, and he said Russia is willing to discuss all offensive and defensive systems.
Still, Putin announced that the new Sarmat silo-based, heavy intercontinental ballistic missile will be deployed by the end of 2022, and the Kinzhal hypersonic missile is also on schedule.
Advanced weaponry in Russia's nuclear triad－strategic aircraft, intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-powered missile-carrying submarines－will top 88 percent this year, he added.
Putin said domestic issues in the post-pandemic era will be more important for the government.
According to the Russian State Statistics Service, the number of Russians with incomes below the subsistence level decreased in the fourth quarter last year to 13.5 million, making up 9.2 percent of the total population. Meanwhile, there were 17.8 million people listed as living in poverty in Russia.
"The most important thing right now is, of course, ensuring the growth of the real incomes of the public－restoring it and guaranteeing its further growth, and achieving tangible changes in the fight against poverty," Putin said.
In his address of an hour and 20 minutes, Putin also stressed the importance of multilateral organizations, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization－of which Russia is a member－in maintaining global safety and stability.
Putin's speech was the 27th State of the Nation Address in the history of modern Russia. The ceremony was usually attended in person by about 1,000 guests, including State Duma legislators and senators, Cabinet members and presidential administration officials.
This year, the Kremlin didn't disclose the number of those invited to attend and requested all those attending to undergo three nucleic acid tests to prove they have a negative COVID-19 status.