President Vladimir Putin wished the Russians a Happy New Year and praised their unity and strength in the face of challenges such as the coronavirus epidemic.
MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday wished Russia a positive change in the new year and praised its unity and strength in the face of challenges such as the coronavirus epidemic.
Speaking on television in each of Russia’s 11-hour regions just before midnight, Putin said that people with a population of about 146 million “faced enormous challenges, but thanks to our solidarity we have learned to live in such difficult conditions and solve difficult tasks.”
“We are still fighting a dangerous epidemic that is sweeping across the continent,” Putin said. “Trouble has killed tens of thousands of people. I want to say a word of sincere support to all those who have lost loved ones.”
Russia’s coronavirus task force has registered a total of 10.5 million confirmed infections and 308,860 deaths, but the country’s state statistics agency, which uses a wider range of criteria in its counting system, says nearly 626,000 people have died in Russia since the plague began.
In Russia, the number of infections has fallen in the past week, with the number of daily new infections exceeding 20,000 after reaching more than 40,000 in early November. The government has so far reported only about 100 infections with the new version of Omicron, but is preparing for a new wave of infections after the holidays.
Only 51% of Russians are fully vaccinated, and the government has tried to speed up vaccination by claiming that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and other domestically produced injections provide better protection against the omicron variant.
Authorities across Russia have restricted access to museums, theaters, and concerts, allowing only vaccinated or negative people, but in most regions, restaurants, clubs, and movie theaters are still accessible. Moscow and other major cities were planning to celebrate the New Year with fireworks, and shopping malls were full of shoppers during the holiday.
“We all hope for a positive change in the future,” Putin said.
Hours after Putin’s phone call with US President Joe Biden, he addressed the nation, drawing attention to next month’s talks on demanding Western security guarantees from Moscow as Russia’s military grows near Ukraine.
Biden reaffirmed the United States’ threat of new sanctions against Russia, and Putin warned that such a move by the United States could lead to a complete breakdown in relations.
“We have always defended the national interests and the security of the country and its citizens,” Putin said.
Russian authorities have tightened control over the country’s political arena this year, sentenced Alexei Navalny, Putin’s main political enemy, to 2.2 years in prison, denounced his organization as “extremist” and targeted many media outlets, civil society groups and activists. “Extremist,” he declared. The insulting label “foreign agents” indicates additional government inspections.
Earlier this week, a Russian court sentenced a year to the closure of the country’s oldest and most prestigious human rights organization, which has sparked international outrage.
Putin, 69, who has ruled the country for more than two decades longer than other Kremlin leaders since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, is eligible for two more six-year terms and remains in office until 2036. whether to run again in 2024.