Russian President Vladimir Putin used his New Year’s address to rally the Russian people behind his troops in Ukraine and promise victory against a West intent on “destroying Russia.”

In a recorded video message broadcast on television, Putin framed the war as a battle over the welfare and future of the country.

The government had previously portrayed the war to the public as a minor effort that would not affect its citizens.

However, with this address, Putin said that the months ahead would require support and self-sacrifice, alleging that the West planned to use Ukraine and its people to weaken Russia and that the invasion was launched to protect the country.

Ukraine and countries in the West have repeatedly rejected this claim, believing that Putin launched an unprovoked war with the intention to seize territory and strengthen his power.

Putin also appeared visibly weary and coughing with rumors spreading about the decline of the president’s health. The head of Russian analysis at the Danish Defense Intelligence Service suggested that Putin had cancer and was undergoing hormone treatment when the war started.

The analyst also claimed that Putin’s seemingly persistent physical discomfort, which makes him grip tables often for support, likely comes from chronic pain.

As the war enters its eleventh month with a resolution seemingly far away, the Kremlin has switched tactics, announcing publicly that the conflict may drag out for far longer than intended as it attempts to save an economy hurt by sanctions from the West.

Despite this, Putin promised victory. “We will triumph, for our families and for Russia,” he said.

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