In his annual address to the nation on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at length about foreign policy and issued warnings to Western powers not to interfere with Russia's internal affairs.
In front of hundreds of representatives from the spheres of politics, the economy and culture, Putin charged that lashing out against Moscow had become an all-too-common habit in recent times.
"Some countries have developed a very bad habit of taking digs at Russia whenever a chance offers itself, and most often without any reason at all. It looks like a new sports game: who will manage to say something louder than the others," he said, as quoted by Russian news agency TASS.
However, the Russian president warned Western powers against crossing a "red line."
"Organizers of any provocations that threaten the core interests of our security will regret their actions like they have regretted nothing for a long time," Putin said. "But I hope that it will not occur to anyone to cross the so-called red line with Russia. Where it runs, we will decide for ourselves in each specific case."
"We do not want to burn any bridges, but if someone perceives our good intentions as indifference or weakness and intends to blow up these bridges, then [they] must know that Russia’s response will be asymmetric, swift and harsh," the Russian president warned according to TASS.
Moscow's already frayed ties with the West have come under further strain with the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as well as escalating military tensions in eastern Ukraine.
The United States and European Union have hit Moscow with a raft of sanctions, with Washington also accusing the Kremlin of being behind a massive cyberattack that affected several US agencies.
The United States, Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have all recently expelled Russian diplomats, for differing reasons, resulting in reciprocal punitive action by Moscow.
Lukashenko assassination plan
During his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Putin also reiterated claims that an assassination attempt on the long-time authoritarian leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, had recently been foiled, as announced by Belarusian KGB and Russian FSB secret services on the weekend. One of the arrested suspects is said to have US citizenship.
According to Lukashenko, foreign secret services are said to be behind the planned coup. The Belarusian KGB secret service accuses the man and another suspect of having prepared an armed uprising. They are also said to have planned to kill Lukashenko and his family. The information cannot be independently verified.
Putin criticized that Western powers had still not reacted to the claims.
While views on Lukashenko’s politics could be differing, “the practice of organizing state overthrows, the plans for political assassinations, including of the highest officials - that goes too far,” Putin said. "All the limits have already been crossed."
During his annual speech, Putin also addressed a range of other matters, from the coronavirus pandemic to the national economy, environmental issues and nuclear weapons.