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MOSCOW – President Vladimir V. Putin cast Russia on Thursday as a defender of conservative values against the “genderless and infertile” Western tolerance that he said equates good and evil.

Putin’s 70-minute state-of-the-nation address marked a determined effort to burnish Russia’s image, which has been dented by Western criticism of an anti-gay law that has stoked calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, his pet project.

Putin’s speech also contained a strong warning to those abroad who he claimed were seeking a military edge over Russia – a clear nod at the U.S. effort to develop long range non-nuclear weapons that Russia sees as a threat to its nuclear deterrent.

Russia has insisted that a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional relations” does not discriminate against gays, but gay rights group say it has given a green light to harassment and intimidation.

Without directly referring to the anti-gay law, Putin focused on upholding traditional family values, which he said were the foundation of Russia’s greatness and a bulwark against “so-called tolerance – genderless and infertile.”

Putin’s posture as a protector of conservative values and his scathing criticism of the West have been part of efforts to shore up his domestic support base of blue-collar workers, farmers and state employees against mounting criticism from the urban middle class. But his speech also was pitched to conservatives worldwide.

“Many countries today are reviewing moral norms and erasing national traditions and distinctions between nationalities and cultures,” Putin said. “The society is now required to demonstrate not only the sensible recognition of everyone’s right to freedom of conscience, political outlook and private life, but also the mandatory recognition of the equivalence of good and evil, no matter how odd that may seem.”

He argued that the “destruction of traditional values from the top” going on in other countries is “inherently undemocratic.”