(Moscow) Vladimir Putin said Friday that he “resolutely” defended Russia’s interests in 2021, the year that saw renewed tensions with the United States, while congratulating his compatriots on the New Year.
“We firmly and consistently defended our national interests, the security of our country and our citizens,” Mr. Putin said in his traditional televised address every December 31 at midnight in Russia.
The country spans 11 time zones, and the easternmost provinces have already celebrated the beginning of the New Year, long before the Moscow region.
Putin’s comments come the day after a high-stakes phone interview with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, in the context of escalating tensions across Ukraine.
Kiev and Western countries accuse Russia of massing its forces on Ukraine’s borders in anticipation of a possible invasion, a charge Moscow denies.
In their meeting on Thursday, the Kremlin responded, Biden threatened Mr. Putin with broad sanctions in the event of an attack, which would be a “fatal mistake.”
The Russian president, who has been in power since 1999, also addressed the health crisis linked to COVID-19, as Russia is one of the worst-affected countries in the world, especially against the background of slow vaccination.
“This insidious disease has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people,” he lamented, adding that his government’s “main objective” for the next year is to “improve the well-being and quality of residents’ lives.”
Russia’s National Statistics Agency (Rosstat) on Thursday reported more than 87,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 in November alone, a record for that country.
According to Rosstat, more than 600,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Russia so far, nearly double the official government toll.
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