On April 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his opponents not to “cross the red line” with Russia. He delivered a keynote address amid deep tensions with the West over Ukraine and imprisoned opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
Standing in front of lawmakers and senior officials in his annual speech in the country, Putin said Russia would respond quickly and forcefully to moves against the interests of the country, while condemning what he said was a coup plot in the Belarusian ally.
“Anyone who organizes any provocation that threatens the fundamental interests of security will have to regret their actions, a long and profound remorse,” Putin said.
Currently, the West is criticizing Russia for the Navalny issue, Russia’s stationary on the Ukrainian border and a series of espionage scandals leading to diplomatic expulsion.
This criticism has become “a new kind of sport” in some foreign capitals to blame Russia “for anything,” Putin said.
He said Russia wants to have good relations with all countries, but warns of a “asymmetric, rapid and harsh” response if they “cross the red line.”
“I hope that no one is thinking of crossing the red line in relations with Russia. And where is this line going – we will determine it for ourselves, ”Putin said.
Meanwhile, thousands of Navalny supporters took to the streets to protest across Russia to protest his detention.
Protests took place in cities including Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk and Tomsk in Siberia, before starting in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Thousands of people gathered in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, waving Russian flags and chanting “Freedom!”, AFP reports.
Navalny supporters demanded the release of the opposition critic, who went on a hunger strike three weeks ago, or at least got proper medical treatment after doctors said his health was deteriorating and that he had can die “at any time”.
Security is tight in Moscow, with areas around the Kremlin and parts of the city center blocked off by riot police.
According to the OVD-Info surveillance group, police have issued warnings against “illegal gatherings” and arrested at least 400 people across the country.
Mr. Navalny was arrested on his return to Russia in January after recovering months in Germany after a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. Moscow has denied this.
His health has been in decline since he started a hunger strike to seek proper medical care.
The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over the Navalny poisoning. On Monday, the West threatened Moscow with further sanctions in the event of Navalny’s death.
A group of UN rights experts on Wednesday expressed concern about his deteriorating health condition.
“We believe that Mr. Navalny’s life is in serious danger,” they warned, calling on the Russian authorities to allow Navalny “to be evacuated for emergency medical treatment overseas.”