Russian President Vladimir Putin has stressed that his country will never give in to attempts by the West to use Ukraine as a tool to destroy Russia.
In a New Year video message broadcast on Russian state television, Putin said Russia is fighting in Ukraine to protect its “motherland” and secure “true independence” for its people.
Putin accused the West of lying to Russia and provoking it to launch what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine, in the nine-minute message, the longest New Year’s speech in his two-decade rule.
“For years, Western elites have falsely reassured us of their goodwill,” he said in a speech to Russian soldiers at the southern Russian military district headquarters.
In an uncharacteristically hostile New Year’s speech, usually devoted to making good wishes for the coming year, “they were actually encouraging in every way possible the neo-Nazis who waged terror against the civilians of Donbas.”
Earlier on Saturday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said victory in Ukraine was “inevitable”, praising the heroism of Russian soldiers fighting on the fronts who have been killed during the ten-month war.
“The West lied about peace. He was preparing for aggression. Now he is cynically using Ukraine and its people to weaken and divide Russia.”
“We have never allowed this, and we will not allow anyone to do this to us,” Putin was quoted by state news agencies as saying in the midnight clip aired in Russia’s Far East.
Kiev and the West reject Moscow’s claims about the cause of the conflict and say Putin has waged a war for no reason, attempting to control territory and topple Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.