President Vladimir Putin declared in a year-end address to the Russian people that Moscow “firmly” defended the nation’s interests in 2021, a year punctuated by heightened tensions with the West over Ukraine and the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
“We firmly and consistently defended our national interests, the security of the country and citizens,” Putin said in a televised speech that was broadcast across all of Russia’s 11 time zones.
“We restored the economy in a short time and we are now embarking on implementation of strategic development goals in many areas,” he added.
Putin also acknowledged that while the Russian people face “colossal challenges” they have “learned to live in those harsh conditions and solve difficult tasks thanks to our solidarity.”
“The main credit for it goes to you, the citizens of Russia,” he said. “This is the result of your hard work. Everyone tried to fulfill his duty, to do not only what is in their power, but also much more, to help those who find it especially difficult. My heartfelt thanks to all of you.”
Putin’s message was broadcast one day after he and President Biden spoke for 50 minutes about Moscow’s buildup of military forces and equipment along Russia’s border with Ukraine, a move that the US and its European allies view as preparation for an imminent invasion.
A White House readout of the call stated that Biden urged the Russian leader to de-escalate tensions and warned that Washington and its allies will “respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.”
The Kremlin, for its part, said Putin had reiterated his insistence on security guarantees that NATO will not expand into Ukraine or any other former Soviet bloc countries.
Diplomats from Washington and Moscow are expected to meet Jan. 10 in Geneva to discuss Russia’s demand.
Navalny was arrested in January when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had been recuperating from being poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve agent.
Putin also expressed his “sincere support to everyone who has lost relatives, loved-ones, friends” from the coronavirus, calling it an “insidious disease.”
With Post wires