Putin praises army in scaled-back New Year's address

The Russian president describes 2024 as the "year of the family" in a message that did not mention Ukraine

By AFP

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Russian President Vladimir Putin. — AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin. — AP

Published: Sun 31 Dec 2023, 8:18 PM

President Vladimir Putin praised the Russian army in his New Year's Eve address on Sunday, arguing society had "united" behind the Kremlin in a scaled-back message that did not mention Ukraine.

In stark contrast to last year, when the Kremlin leader gave a combative speech flanked by soldiers, Putin described 2024 as the "year of the family" in front of the traditional backdrop of the Kremlin.

"We have repeatedly proved that we are able to solve the most difficult tasks and will never back down, because there is no force that can separate us," Putin said in the message, which aired on state TV.

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The address comes as Putin gears up for a 2024 re-election campaign, where the conflict in Ukraine will likely be eclipsed by domestic priorities like the economy and inflation.

He made no mention of Saturday's strike in the Russian city of Belgorod, in which officials said Ukrainian shelling killed at least 24 people and injured dozens more, but praised the army.

"To all those who are on duty, on the front line of the fight for truth and justice," Putin said. "You are our heroes. Our hearts are with you. We are proud of you, we admire your courage.

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"We are united in our thoughts, in toil and in battle," he said, adding that Russians understood their country was passing through what he called a significant "historical stage".

"We will ensure the confident development of the Fatherland, the well-being of our citizens, and we will become even stronger," Putin continued in his closing remarks.

The televised New Year's Eve speech, which continues a tradition started by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, is a holiday staple in Russia, watched in millions of households.

It is aired just before midnight in each of Russia's 11 time zones, and is usually a short summary of events of the past year as well as wishes for the year ahead.


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