(Moscow) Vladimir Putin has vociferously defended Russia’s interests in 2021, wishing his fellow citizens a Happy New Year, citing the resumption of tensions with the United States.
“We have firmly and consistently defended our national interests, the security of our country and our citizens,” he said. Putin broadcast his traditional television speech in Russia every December 31 at midnight.
The country has 11 time zones and the eastern provinces have already celebrated the entry into the new year long before the Moscow region.
Mr. Putin’s remarks came a day after a high-stakes telephone interview with his American counterpart, Joe Biden, amid intense tensions around Ukraine.
Kiev and Western countries have accused Russia of having a massive invasion of the Ukrainian border, which Moscow has denied.
At their meeting on Thursday, Biden threatened to impose heavy sanctions on Mr Putin if he attacked, the Kremlin responded by saying it was a “huge mistake”.
The Russian president, who has been in power since 1999, also referred to the health crisis associated with COVID-19, saying Russia is one of the most difficult countries in the world, especially against the backdrop of a slowing vaccination.
“This artificial disease has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people,” he lamented, adding that his government’s “main goal” for the coming year is to “improve the welfare and quality of life of the population.”
Russia’s National Statistics Agency (Rosstat) on Thursday reported more than 87,000 COVID-19-related deaths in November alone, a record in that country.
According to Rossstat, more than 600,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Russia so far, almost double the official government figure.