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Putin is ‘hiding behind you’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the headquarters of the Southern Military District and recorded a video of a New Year’s message on Saturday.

In the nine-minute recording – the longest New Year’s speech he has given at the time – Putin said that “moral and historical correctness is on our side”.

“It was a year full of truly decisive and defining events. These events became the frontier that laid the foundations for our common future and our true independence.”

He added, “It was a year of difficult and necessary decisions, and the most important steps towards obtaining full sovereignty for Russia and firmly strengthening our society.”

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

During his visit on Saturday, the Russian president spoke with the army chiefs and presented the battle flags of the new military formations. He also distributed official awards to soldiers who showed “courage and heroism” during Russia’s so-called “special military operation”, which Moscow described as its invasion of Ukraine.

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

Putin said that although Russia has been under Western sanctions for years, “a real sanctions war has been declared against us this year.”

“Those who initiated it expected the complete destruction of our industry, our money and our means of transportation. This did not happen, because together we have created a reliable margin of safety, and what we have done and what we are doing in this field is aimed at strengthening our sovereignty in the most important field, which is the economy.

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

That day, Putin used the term “military special operation” to describe his attack. He owns the framing of continued brutality as a campaign of “slander”—a description that historians and political observers have dismissed—and has increasingly portrayed Russia’s unprovoked invasion as a quasi-existential national problem.

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

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