Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address at the Gostiny Dvor conference centre in central Moscow on February 21, 2023. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

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Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a warning on Tuesday that if the West decides to supply Ukraine with longer-range advanced weapons, it will force Russia to push the threat further away from its borders. In his annual address to parliament, Putin accused the West of using Ukraine as a battering ram against Russia and a training ground. He stated that it is obvious that the longer the range of Western systems that arrive in Ukraine, the further Russia will be forced to push the threat away from its borders.

Western countries, including the US and the UK, have already supplied Ukraine with heavy weapons, including US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and M777 howitzers.

Putin also announced that Moscow is temporarily withdrawing from the last remaining nuclear treaty between Russia and the US, the New START Treaty. He noted that the agreement was initially drawn up under completely different circumstances and that the US is now issuing ultimatums to Russia, while NATO itself has essentially made an application to become part of the treaty as well. The bloc members are now demanding an inspection of Russia’s strategic facilities, Putin said, noting that Moscow’s requests to inspect Western nuclear facilities under the treaty are systematically denied.

During the same address, Putin accused the West of playing with a stacked deck while simulating diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Donbass, Ukraine. He noted that Western countries had admitted that the 2014-2015 Minsk agreements were nothing more than “a diplomatic spectacle, a bluff.” Putin also accused the West of using this “despicable method of deceit” during campaigns in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated that the Minsk agreements signed in 2014-15 to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine were intended to give Kiev time to strengthen its military. In an interview with the Italian magazine Sette, she said that the 2014-15 Ukraine of the time was not the same as it is now and doubted that NATO could have helped Ukraine as much as it can today. The failure of Kiev to implement the Minsk agreements has been cited by Russia as one of the reasons for Moscow launching its military operation in February 2022.

Senator Konstantin Kosachev, the vice speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, has earlier said that thousands of lives have been lost in eastern Ukraine since 2014 because the West has treated the Minsk agreements as scrap paper. Kosachev reacted to an admission by former French President Francois Hollande that the Minsk agreements were a ploy to buy time for Kiev to strengthen its military. The senator claimed that the only co-author of the Minsk agreements that genuinely tried to act as a guarantor was Russia and that the West’s approach to Ukraine contradicts so-called European values.

Putin's comments come nearly a year after Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine, citing the need to protect the people of Donbass and Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk accords. The conflict has resulted in around 5,000 deaths in Donbass since 2014, according to Aleksandr Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, with almost 9,000 wounded.