Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the expanded ministries of interior in Moscow on February 26, 2020.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against provoking his country in his annual state of the nation speech on Wednesday and promised swift retaliation against anyone who crossed “red lines”.

Moscow will react “harshly”, “quickly” and “asymmetrically” to foreign provocations, Putin told an audience of top Russian officials and lawmakers, adding that he “hoped” that no foreign actor would cross Russia’s “red lines”, according to Reuters would exceed translation.

Putin also pointed to the country’s planned investments in expanded military training, hypersonic weapons and ICBMs – while also insisting that Russia wants peace and arms control deals.

The 68-year-old head of state condemned what he called the constant tendency of international actors to blame Russia for wrongdoing and said it had become like a sport.

The comments came in the last half-hour of the 90-minute speech, which mainly focused on Russia’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as well as domestic economic and social problems.

The speech took place against the background of worsening tensions with the US and the EU and follows the recent imposition of sanctions against Russia by the Biden government for alleged cyber attacks, human rights violations and a Russian military build-up along the border with Ukraine.

During the address, protests took place across Russia in support of imprisoned Putin critic Alexei Navalny, who fell dangerously ill and was taken to a prison hospital after a hunger strike. The news sparked warnings from the US that there would be “consequences” if Russia let Navalny die in prison.

According to OVD-Info, an independent Russian NGO monitoring rallies, over 100 people have so far been arrested during the protests on Wednesday.

In addition, Russia has been accused of orchestrating an attack on a Czech arms dump in 2014, with the Czech Republic deporting 18 Russian diplomats in recent days.

Russia denies that two of its military intelligence agents – the same men believed to have carried out a nerve agent attack on a former spy in the UK in 2018 – carried out the Czech attack, but the news still added to the negative news flow surrounding Putin’s Russia .