Putin addresses Federal Assembly ahead of elections



Russian President Vladimir Putin made his annual address to the Federal Assembly, a constitutionally mandated joint session of Russia’s lower and upper legislative chambers, at Moscow’s Gostiny Dvor on Thursday.

This was the second time he has addressed both houses of parliament since his decision to invade Ukraine and just two weeks since his principal opponent Alexey Navalny died suddenly in prison earlier this month.

Putin began his speech by saying that the war in Ukraine had the support of “the absolute majority of Russians”.

He was critical of what he called the “so-called West with its colonialist order”, which he said was trying to hinder Russia’s development. 

“The West has done the same thing that it has done in many other parts of the world, including Ukraine. But they miscalculated and were met with a firm response from our people,” Putin said.

He then asked those present to observe a minute of silence for Russia’s fallen soldiers in Ukraine, which lasted for approximately 18 seconds.

Putin accused the West of “provoking” both the conflict in Ukraine and the conflict in the Middle East and lying about it. “And now they’re saying Russia is going to attack Europe. They’re talking nonsense. Yet at the same time they choose targets on Russian territory, talking about sending military contingents to Ukraine. But we remember the fate of those who once sent contingents to the territory of our country.”

Putin dedicated a major part of his speech to demographic and social issues, announcing tax rebates for families with several children (€28 for families with two children and €60 for families with three or more) and prolonging existing programs, including benefits for expectant mothers, until 2030. He also mentioned additional payouts for teachers.

Putin said he met with Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine “all the time”. “I look at these courageous people, sometimes very young guys. My heart fills with pride. These people will certainly not back down, will not fail and will never betray us. They should be the ones taking top jobs in education, in state companies and other spheres.”

Putin’s two-hour-long speech, his longest address yet to the Federal Assembly, ended with a standing ovation for the soldiers “building Russia’s future”. Putin concluded his speech by saying: “We are one big family. We’ll do everything we planned and everything we dreamt of. I believe in our victories, in our successes, in the future of Russia.”

This is likely to be Putin’s last major speech before the presidential election on 15-17 March.

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