Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday his country would never give in to what he called the West's attempts to use Ukraine as a tool to destroy Russia.
In a New Year's video message broadcast on Russian state TV, Mr Putin said Russia was fighting in Ukraine to protect its “motherland” and to secure “true independence” for its people.
In a nine-minute message — the longest New Year's address of his two-decade rule — Mr Putin accused the West of lying to Russia and of provoking Moscow to launch what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
“For years, Western elites hypocritically assured us of their peaceful intentions,” he said in a speech filmed in front of Russian service personnel at the headquarters of the country's southern military district.
“In fact, in every possible way they were encouraging neo-Nazis who conducted open terrorism against civilians in the Donbas,” Mr Putin said in a New Year's speech.
Earlier, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said victory for Russia over Ukraine was “inevitable” as he hailed Russian soldiers' heroism in a new year's video message.
Moscow's defence chief, who has been heavily criticised by pro-war voices in Russia for battlefield failures during the 10-month campaign, said the situation on the front lines remained “difficult” and lambasted Ukraine and the West for trying to contain Russia.
“We meet the New Year in a difficult military-political situation,” Mr Shoigu said. “At a time when there are those who are trying to erase our glorious history and great achievements, demolish monuments to the victors over fascism, put war criminals on a pedestal, cancel and desecrate everything Russian.”
With bloody fighting continuing across the 1,000-kilometre front line, and Russia not having secured any territorial gains since the first months of the war, Mr Shoigu told Russian soldiers: “Victory, like the New Year, is inevitable.”
Mr Shoigu also praised the “immortal actions, selfless courage and heroism” shown by Russian troops fighting what he called “neo-Nazism and terrorism”.
Kyiv and the West have rejected Russia's assertion it is fighting “Nazis” in Ukraine as a baseless pretext for Mr Putin's attempt to seize territory and topple Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a war of unprovoked aggression.
Moscow had expected swift victory in what it calls a “special military operation”, but Ukraine's spirited resistance and billions of dollars of western arms supplies have helped Kyiv turn the tide of the war and mount a series of stunning counteroffensives.
Ukraine has now reclaimed more than half of the territory seized by Russia during the first weeks of its invasion.