War goes unmentioned in New Year address as Putin keeps it vague

In his New Year address to the nation, Russian President Vladimir Putin reverted to earlier form on Sunday and made a speech that avoided any mention of current events, and the war in Ukraine in particular.

Speaking to the Russian people in a speech pre-recorded outside in the Kremlin, Putin said that the main force uniting the Russian people was “the fate of the Fatherland”. He paid special tribute to those “at the forefront of the fight for truth and justice” serving in uniform: “You are our heroes. Our hearts are with you. We are proud of you and admire your courage.”

Addressing the Kremlin’s ongoing anxiety about Russia’s rapidly shrinking population, Putin reminded Russians that 2024 was to be “the year of the family” in an attempt to bolster the country’s sluggish child birth rate.

Other phrases that made it into the four-minute speech included “the multinational people of Russia” and “the faith of our fathers”, as well as the perennial “we are one country, one big family.”

The speech contrasted sharply with the one Putin delivered a year ago, which was full of very specific talk of the war in Ukraine and for which he was surrounded by soldiers who had fought in the Donbas.

Russia’s presidential address, which has been a tradition for Russian leaders since the Brezhnev era, is broadcast separately just before midnight in each of the country’s 11 different time zones, meaning that the speech was broadcast to residents of Kamchatka in the Russian Far East at 3 PM Moscow time.

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