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Putin Visits Russian Troops, Claims 'Moral Rightness' in New Year Address

The Moscow Times logo The Moscow Times 12/31/2022 The Moscow Times
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MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin said in his New Year's televized address Saturday that "moral, historical rightness" is on Russia's side as his country faces international condemnation for its offensive in Ukraine.

As Russia’s Far East rang in the New Year, Putin delivered his traditional midnight address standing among soldiers who had apparently fought in Ukraine.

Putin said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that this year was marked by "truly pivotal, fateful events" which became "the frontier that lays the foundation for our common future, for our true independence."

"Today we are fighting for this, protecting our people in our own historical territories, in the new constituent entities of the Russian Federation," he added, referring to Ukrainian regions that Russia claims to have annexed.

"Moral, historical rightness is on our side," he said.

The New Year’s address given by the Russian president – that is watched by millions of Russians – is usually given in Moscow in front of a decorated Christmas tree.

But the war in Ukraine was very much front and center this time as the fighting grinds on into its eleventh month.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Putin recorded the New Year's speech from the headquarters of Russia's southern military district, where he was on a visit earlier on Saturday and presented medals.

Among the recipients of the awards was Russia's commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin.

Footage shown on Russian state TV showed Putin raising a glass of champagne with soldiers — both men and women — dressed in military uniform.

"Russia was driven to the point of either surrendering everything or fighting. As long as we have people like you... of course nothing can be given up," Putin told them.

Revelry in the Russian capital ahead of New Year’s Eve was also overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.

Volunteer soldiers Zviad, 44 from Georgia, Sadik, 30 from Tajikistan, and Guy-Sylvani, 41 from Côte d’Ivoire, told The Moscow Times they wanted to visit the New Year’s festivities on Red Square before being deployed in Ukraine next month.

“We expect victory by springtime next year. The Soviet Union is our common homeland so we’re here to fight for our countries too,” said Zviad in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

“A commonwealth of friendly states, including Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and others will be together. We need to overcome these difficulties, then everything will be alright,” he said.

There will be fewer celebrations in Moscow this year, compared to previous ones.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin canceled New Year’s fireworks and major festivities one week after Ukrainian troops recaptured the southern city of Kherson in November.

That decision came after 156,000 Muscovites voted online to forego eye-catching celebrations, compared with 87,000 who wanted to see fireworks displays.

Nevertheless, restaurants and coffee shops were packed Saturday along streets near Red Square, with apparently little awareness that the Russian army had launched a barrage of missiles at Ukrainian cities just hours earlier.

At least one person was killed in Kyiv as a resilt of the strikes, according to Ukrainian officials.

Putin has cast the war in Ukraine as an existential struggle in which Russia is battling not just Ukrainian forces, but much of the West world.

In his speech, the Russian leader also said that "a real sanctions war was declared on us" after Western countries hit Moscow with a barrage of sanctions in response to military action in Ukraine.

"Those who started it expected the total destruction of our industry, finances, transport. That didn't happen," he added.

AFP contributed reporting


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