VLADIMIR Putin coughed and spluttered his way through his New Year's address while flanked by soldiers who fought in Ukraine.
Question marks hang over the 70-year-old tyrant's health as rumours swirl he is battling cancer and even Parkinson's disease.
As Russian regions in the Far East rung in the New Year, furious Putin used his traditional midnight address to lash out as his invasion continues to falter.
He accused the West of using Ukraine as a tool to destroy his country as he insisted Russia was fighting to protect its "motherland" and to secure "true independence" for its people.
In a nine-minute message – the longest New Year's message of his two-decade rule – Putin accused the West of lying to Russia and of provoking Moscow to launch what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine.
He said: "For years, Western elites hypocritically assured us of their peaceful intentions.
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"In fact, in every possible way they were encouraging neo-Nazis who conducted open terrorism against civilians in the Donbas."
Putin coughed throughout the message amid rumours of his failing health and fight against cancer as he claimed to be guiding Russians to “our common future, our true independence”.
He added: “This is what we are fighting for, protecting our people on our own territories.
“The main thing is the fate of Russia. Moral, historical truth is on our side.
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“Western elites have been reassuring us for years of their peaceful intentions, including to resolve the conflict in Donbas.
“In fact, they encouraged the Nazis in Ukraine.
“The West lied about peace, but was preparing for aggression.”
Putin was surrounded by 20 servicemen and women who fought in Ukraine, who he raised a glass of champagne with.
The tyrant told them: "Russia was driven to the point of either surrendering everything or fighting. A long as we have people like you… of course nothing can be given up."
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Putin delivered his New Year's speech from the headquarters of Russia's southern military district, where he was on a visit earlier on Saturday and presented awards to servicemen.
Among the recipients of the awards was Russia's commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, Russian news agencies said.
It comes as new Western intelligence analysis claims Putin is suffering from megalomania caused by cancer drugs.
A senior spy official from Denmark alleged “delusions of grandeur” and the Russian president’s “moon-shaped face” in early 2022 were signs of the side effects of hormone treatment.
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Rumours have persisted that Putin is "critically ill" and bombshell spy documents leaked to The Sun appeared to confirm he has early-stage Parkinson's disease and pancreatic cancer.
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