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MOSCOW: One of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies said on Tuesday that Russia was now fighting the US-led NATO military alliance in Ukraine and that the West was trying to rip Russia apart and ultimately wipe it from the political map of the world.

“The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv - this is a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, and above all the United States and Britain,” Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said.

“The Westerners’ plans are to continue to pull Russia apart, and eventually just erase it from the political map of the world,” Patrushev told the Argumenti i Fakti newspaper.

Russian warship holds drills in Norwegian Sea

Patrushev, a former Soviet spy who has known Putin since the 1970s, is a hardline ally and seen as one of the few people able to influence the Russian president.

Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has triggered one of the deadliest European conflicts since World War Two and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

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