Putin wishes the Russians a Happy New Year and cheers for their strength

Moscow (Associated Press)-On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin wished the Russians positive changes in the new year, praising their unity and strength in the face of severe challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic .

Putin said in a televised speech in each of Russia’s 11 time zones before midnight that this country with a population of nearly 146 million faces “huge challenges, but because of our unity, we have learned to cope with those harsh conditions. Get down to live and solve difficult tasks”.

Putin said: “We continue to fight the dangerous pandemic that has swept across all continents and has not yet subsided. This dangerous disease has claimed tens of thousands of lives.” I want to express my sincere support to all those who have lost their loved ones. “

The Russian National Coronavirus Task Force has registered approximately 10.5 million confirmed infections and 308,860 deaths, but since the beginning of the pandemic, the national statistical agency, which uses a wider standard in its statistical system, has reported nearly 626,000 cases of virus-related cases. die.

In recent weeks, the infection rate in Russia has declined. After reaching a peak of more than 40,000 in early November, the number of new infections per day is currently slightly more than 20,000. So far, the government has only reported about 100 new omicron variant infections, but it is preparing for a new wave of infections after the holiday.

Only 51% of Russians have been fully vaccinated, and the government has been seeking to speed up vaccination, claiming that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and other domestically designed vaccines provide good protection against omicron variants.

Authorities across Russia restrict access to museums, theaters, and concerts, and only allow those who have been vaccinated or tested negative, but in most areas, restaurants, clubs and cinemas are still available to everyone. Moscow and other big cities plan to celebrate the New Year with fireworks, and shopping malls are crowded with holiday shopping spree customers.

Putin said: “We are all united in hope of positive changes in the future,” adding that improving living standards is the main goal “to help make Russia stronger”.

Putin broadcasted a speech to the country a few hours after talking on the phone with US President Joe Biden. The focus of the call was the meeting next month to discuss Moscow’s requirements for Western security guarantees when Russian troops are assembled near Ukraine.

Biden reiterated that the United States is threatening to impose new sanctions on Russia to prevent escalation or invasion. Putin responded to this, warning that such actions by the United States may lead to a complete breakdown of relations between the two countries.

Putin said: “We firmly and consistently defend our national interests, the safety of our country and its citizens.”

The Russian authorities have strengthened their control over the domestic political arena this year. Putin’s main political enemy Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 2 1/2 years’ imprisonment. His organization was designated as an “extremist”. Dozens of media, Civil society groups and activists are referred to as “foreign agents,” which is a derogatory label that implies additional censorship by the government.

Earlier this week, a Russian court shut down the country’s oldest and most famous human rights organization, a move that sparked international anger.

Putin, 69, has been in power for more than 20 years — longer than any other Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin — and has the right to seek two more six-year terms and stay in power until 2036. He has stated that he will decide whether to operate again in 2024 in the future.

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