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Putin warns West not to cross red line in annual address

Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPutin laughs when asked by NBC reporter if he's a 'killer' Biden and the crucible of European peace Biden should remind Erdogan of NATO's basic tenets and values MORE delivered a stern warning Wednesday to the West amid rising tensions over Ukraine, saying anyone who crosses a "red line" will be met with a harsh response.

In a speech to governors, members of Parliament and other national figures, Putin focused on Moscow’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but warned that any provocation from the West would be met with a harsh response.

“If someone interprets our good intentions as indifference or weakness and is willing to cross a red line, they should know that Russia’s response would be asymmetric, fast and tough," Putin said. “I hope that no one will think of crossing the red line with Russia, for every single case we will determine where that red line is.”

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The remarks come amid rising concerns over increased fighting in eastern Ukraine between the country’s military and pro-Russia separatists. Moscow has also overseen the largest military buildup along the Ukrainian border since 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

Observers had feared that the buildup was in preparation for another possible invasion, but Putin has not disclosed any upcoming military moves.

Russia was kicked out of the then-Group of Eight in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea, and Western nations again have railed against Moscow’s military buildup, casting it as a threatening posture.

The U.S. last week slapped a slew of sanctions on Russia over its “malign” behavior, including election meddling and its actions in Ukraine, and expelled 10 Russian diplomats. The United Kingdom also summoned the Russian ambassador in London, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met last week with the leaders of France and Germany to discuss the situation. 

The U.S. is also reportedly considering requests from Ukraine to send additional weaponry in the face of Moscow’s military maneuvers.

Zelensky on Tuesday said he was still willing to meet with his Russian counterpart in the Donbass region, where fighting is ongoing.

"Mr. Putin, I am ready to go even further and invite you to meet anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbass, where there is a war," Zelensky said Tuesday, warning that his country is “ready for war.”