Putin uses New Year address for wartime rallying cry to Russians

January 1, 2023 9:46 am

[Source: Reuters]

Russian President Vladimir Putin devoted his annual New Year’s address on Saturday to rallying the Russian people behind his troops fighting in Ukraine and pledging victory over Ukrainian “neo-Nazis” and a West supposedly intent on “destroying Russia”.

In a stern and combative recorded video message, broadcast on national television, Putin cast the war – which he calls a “special military operation” – as a near-existential fight for the future of Russia.

Its soldiers, he said, were fighting for “our motherland, truth and justice … so that Russia’s security can be guaranteed”.

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For months, the Kremlin presented the conflict as a limited campaign that would not affect most Russians’ lives.

But the speech, delivered in front of grim-faced soldiers in combat uniform, put the war squarely centre-stage, telling families gathered for the year’s main celebration that the months ahead would require support and sacrifice from everyone.

The message was being broadcast into millions of homes on state TV just before the clocks struck midnight in each of Russia’s 11 time zones, as families tucked into a festive meal and exchanged gifts.

As the war drags into its 11th month with no end in sight, the Kremlin has slowly put society on more of a war footing – calling up more than 300,000 reservists, often in chaotic fashion, retooling an economy hurt by a barrage of Western sanctions and saying publicly that the conflict may be long.