Putin says Russia ‘will never back down’ in year-end speech


Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would “never back down” in his annual year-end speech, which was set to be broadcast in each time zone shortly before midnight ahead of the new year.

Putin stressed national unity in the prerecorded address, which lasted just under four minutes, according to The Associated Press (AP), citing Russian state media. The address was significantly shorter than the previous year’s.

“We have repeatedly proven that we can solve the most difficult problems and will never back down because there is no force that can separate us,” Putin said in his remarks, according to the AFP news agency.

Putin did not mention Ukraine by name in his remarks, though the nearly two-year-long war in the country was a central theme of his comments.

“What united us and unites us is the fate of the Fatherland, a deep understanding of the highest significance of the historical stage through which Russia is passing,” Putin said, praising Russian citizens’ “solidarity, mercy and fortitude.”

He praised the soldiers fighting on the front line for Russia, saying, “We are proud of you, you are heroes, you feel the support of the entire people.”

The AFP news agency reported that Putin did not mention the deadly shelling in Belgorod on Saturday, which killed 24 people and injured 108 people. Among the deceased were three children.

Many festivities were subdued this year in Moscow, the AP reported, with the customary fireworks and concert on Red Square canceled this year, as they were last year. Some other cities canceled their fireworks after the Belgorod attack, the news wire reported.

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