Putin warns of foreign efforts to destabilise and shackle Russia

WION Web Team
Moscow, Russia Published: Feb 24, 2021, 08:28 PM(IST)

Vladimir Putin Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The comments came as relations between Russia and the West approach their lowest point since the Cold War, with new EU and US penalties looming over Russia for its arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his domestic intelligence agency Wednesday to be on guard against Western attempts to shackle and destabilise the country, after the EU agreed on new sanctions on Moscow.

The comments came as relations between Russia and the West approach their lowest point since the Cold War, with new EU and US penalties looming over Russia for its arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Russia has always alleged Navalny has the support of US security services.

Speaking to the Federal Security Services (FSB) in his annual address to the domestic intelligence agency, Putin said the West is "trying to shackle us with economic and other sanctions". 

"We are faced with the so-called policy of containing Russia," he said.

"This is not about competition... but about a consistent and very aggressive line aimed at disrupting our development, slowing it down, creating problems along our borders," Putin added, saying the West was employing tools "from the arsenal of the special services".

He said the efforts were aimed at "provoking internal instability to undermine the values that unite Russian society and ultimately weaken Russia and bring it under external control".

Putin earlier this month accused the West of using Navalny to try to contain Russia, a term connoting the US strategy towards the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

On Wednesday, the Russian leader called on the FSB to make the Western threat a priority in its work this year along with its primary task of countering terrorism. 

Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lambasted the West during an address to the UN Human Rights Council for refusing to suspend sanctions despite a global economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.

The European Union this week moved to sanction four Russian officials over the jailing of Navalny, adding to the series of sanctions Russia has faced over election interference and the conflict in Ukraine.

Navalny, Putin's most prominent critic, was arrested on January 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation and accused Navalny of cooperating with Western intelligence agencies.

Earlier this month, Navalny was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison for violating terms of his probation while convalescing in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated and the European Court of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful.

Navalny's arrest has fuelled a wave of protests that drew tens of thousands to the streets across Russia. The authorities have detained about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.

(with inputs from agencies)

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