September 22, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the headquarters of his country’s southern military district and recorded a New Year’s video message Saturday.

In the nine-minute recording – the longest New Year’s address of his rule – Putin said that “moral, historical righteousness is on our side.” 

“It was a year of truly pivotal, fateful events. These events have become this frontier, which lay the foundation for our common future, our true independence,” he said, in a veiled reference to Moscow’s war in Ukraine. 

“It was a year of difficult necessary decisions, the most important steps towards gaining the full sovereignty of Russia and the powerful consolidation of our society,” he added.

Putin recorded the address at a military base in the city of Rostov-on-Don.

During his visit Saturday, the Russian leader spoke with army commanders and handed over battle flags to new military formations. He also presented state awards to servicemen who showed “courage and heroism” in Russia’s so-called “special military operation,” which is how Moscow describes its invasion of Ukraine.

“2022 is coming to an end. It was a year that put a lot in its place, clearly separated courage and heroism from betrayal and cowardice, showed that there is no power higher than love for one’s family and relatives, loyalty to friends and comrades, devotion to one’s motherland,” Putin said in his message to the nation. 

Although Russia has been hit by western sanctions for years, Putin said “a real sanctions war has been declared against us this year.”

“Those who started it expected the complete destruction of our industry, finances and transport. This did not happen, because together we have created a reliable margin of safety, what we have done and are doing in this area is all aimed at strengthening our sovereignty in the most important area, the economy,” he continued. 

More context: Thousands of people have been killed, entire villages wiped out and billions of dollars of infrastructure destroyed since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.

That day, Putin used the term “special military operation” to describe his attack. He has framed the ongoing brutality as a campaign of “denazification” – a description dismissed by historians and political observers – and has increasingly described Russia’s unprovoked invasion as a patriotic and almost existential cause.

CNN’s Radina Gigova and Rhea Mogul contributed to this report.


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