Russia is moral compass of the world -- Putin
Vladimir Putin sought to cast Russia as the moral arbiter of the world, as he hit out at America's "non-traditional values" and its influence around the globe.
In an annual state-of-the-nation address, the 61-year-old Russian president defended his government's increasingly conservative values and decried the "review of norms of morality" in the West and elsewhere.
"This destruction of traditional values from above not only entails negative consequences for society, but is also inherently anti-democratic because it is based on an abstract notion and runs counter to the will of the majority of people," Mr Putin said, adding that there could be no benefit from treating "good and evil" equally.
His comments amounted to an oblique rebuttal to the growing international movement against Russia's restrictive laws on homosexuality. Support for a boycott in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics has widened, with celebrities including Elton John announcing that they will not perform in Russia.
Others, including Joachim Gauck, the German president, have declined invitations to the event.
In his 70-minute televised speech from the Kremlin, Mr Putin condemned interference from the US and other western countries, saying Russia did not aspire to be "some kind of superpower".
"We do not force our patronage on anyone, or try to teach anyone how to live," he said.
But he insisted that traditional family values were a bulwark against "so-called tolerance -- genderless and infertile".
Critics of the speech were quick to point out that post-Soviet Russia has seen a decline in its birth rates to among the lowest of any developed nation.
Mr Putin also revived the Kremlin's warnings against US plans for anti-missile shields: "Nobody should have any illusion about the possibility of gaining military superiority over Russia," he said.
"We will never allow this to happen." (© Daily Telegraph, London)