Vladimir Putin in New Year Message Admits 2016 Wasn’t Easy
(WSJ/Hodge) MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a videotaped address to his countrymen on Saturday evening, congratulating them on the New Year’s holiday while acknowledging that 2016 wasn’t easy for Russia.
The address isn’t expected to be broadcast in Moscow until shortly before midnight Saturday. But the New Year’s message was aired in Russia’s Far East region, seven hours ahead of the Russian capital, and transcripts and video were posted online Saturday by Russian news agencies.
“2016 is ending,” the Russian president said. “It was not easy, but the difficulties that we faced united us and prompted to open the huge reserves of our ability to move forward.”
Mr. Putin was front and center in world affairs in 2016. The Obama administration has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating cyberattacks aimed at influencing the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections. The U.S. government this week imposed new sanctions on Moscow and expelled Russians it alleged were intelligence operatives serving under diplomatic cover.
But in a surprise move, Mr. Putin said Russia wouldn’t retaliate by expelling U.S. diplomats. The Kremlin is hoping for a thaw in U.S.-Russian relations once President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Russia has also advanced a plan for brokering an end to the war in Syria, hammering out a cease-fire deal there with Turkey backing talks in Kazakhstan next month aimed at ending the fighting.
Mr. Putin acknowledged Russians deployed abroad.
“Many of our citizens, including those far away from home, are guaranteeing the security of Russia, are working in factories and on duty in hospitals, are operating trains and planes,” Mr. Putin said. “To anyone who is carrying out your labor and military duty now, my best wishes for the coming year.”
New Year’s Eve is a major holiday for Russians; the Russian Orthodox Church observes the Julian calendar, and Christmas here is officially observed in January.
“Each of us on New Year’s Eve can be a bit of a magician,” Mr. Putin said. “To do this, you just need to treat your parents with love and gratitude, be surrounded with attention and care of your children, families and colleagues at work, to cherish friendship, defend truth and justice, be merciful, and help those who are waiting for support. That’s the whole secret.”