In his traditional televised New Year’s greeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Russians had “encountered colossal challenges” in 2021 but had overcome them through “solidarity.”
Putin’s six-minute recorded speech was broadcast on December 31, just as midnight approached in the easternmost of Russia’s 11 time zones. According to the TASS state news agency, it was the longest such address Putin has given.
Without discussing specifics, Putin said Moscow “firmly” defended its interests in 2021, a year marked by a harsh crackdown on civil society and the political opposition in Russia and by heightened tensions with the West amid a buildup of Russian forces near the border with Ukraine.
Putin expressed condolences to those who had lost loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic, which killed at least 87,527 Russians in November.
He said that the government’s main goal “is to improve the well-being and the quality of life of the citizenry.”
“The solution of these tasks will make Russia even stronger,” Putin said.
Former President Dmitry Medvedev posted a similar New Year's greeting that also emphasized that “we remain strong because we are unified.”
“Our people have shown many times that they know how to love, to sympathize, to help, and even to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others,” Medvedev said. “This experience has made us stronger.”
Imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny posted on Instagram a New Year’s greeting in which he called on Russians to “remain optimists, no matter what.”
Navalny was arrested in January immediately upon his return to Russia after weeks of medical treatment in Germany following a near-fatal nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on Federal Security Service (FSB) agents acting on Putin’s behest.
He is serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence that he says was retribution for his political activity.