Putin calls for unity and praises military in New Year’s speech

Vladimir Putin delivered his New Year’s address on Sunday, saying “We will never step back.” The Russian leader spoke alone on camera and did not refer to the situation in Ukraine.

Putin commended the Russian military in his New Year’s Eve speech, urging for “unity” in a restrained address that did not explicitly mention the tension in Ukraine. Unlike last year, when the Russian leader was surrounded by uniformed soldiers, Putin announced 2024 as the “year of the family” with the usual backdrop of the Kremlin.

“We have proven time and again that we can handle the most challenging tasks and that we will never step back because nothing can divide us, make us forget the legacy and faith of our ancestors, or hinder our progress,” said Putin in the speech aired by state television.

The televised New Year’s Eve address, following a tradition initiated by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, is a regular festive event in Russia, watched by millions of households. It is broadcasted just before midnight in each of Russia’s 11 time zones and usually summarizes events of the previous year while expressing hopes for the next year. It has already been shown in Russia’s Far East, where it is already January 1 due to the time difference.

“In the past year, we worked hard and accomplished a lot. We are proud of our joint achievements, celebrated our successes, and remained steadfast in protecting national interests, our freedom, and security—values that have been and continue to be a firm support for us,” stressed Putin. The president, who did not bring up Ukraine in his address, specifically spoke to the military, “to all those who are at their duty stations, on the front line in the fight for truth and justice.”

“You are our heroes. Our hearts are with you. We are proud of you and respect your bravery,” he said.

Ukraine faces a difficult year as Western assistance starts to decrease, raising the risk of running out of supplies and funds, while Russia explores joint ventures for military production. Putin is the longest-serving president in Russia since Joseph Stalin, and his name will be on the ballots again when Russians vote in March.

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