Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, spoke briefly on his war in Ukraine at his Sunday New Year’s speech. He praised his men as heroes and focused largely on unanimity and united resolve, as he faces an election in March.
“To everyone who is at a combat post, at the forefront of the fight for truth and justice: You are our heroes, our hearts are with you. We are proud of you, we admire your courage,” Putin added.
Neither the term “special military operation”—which Putin used to describe the conflict he started in February 2022 by sending Russian forces into Ukraine—nor Ukraine itself were mentioned.
Having put an end to any meaningful opposition forces and political dissent, the 71-year-old will undoubtedly win the election and continue to hold office for another 24 years.
But in the last few months, as the conflict has essentially come to a standstill, he has softened his formerly forceful, patriotic remarks about Ukraine and focused more on the inflation and economy.
“We have proven more than once that we can solve the most difficult problems and will never retreat, because there is no force that can divide us,” he said.
His address included no reference to the estimated hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers that have died or been injured, nor to the way that the fighting has often spilled over into civilian areas, as demonstrated most dramatically by the Ukrainian offensive on the city of Belgorod on Saturday, which is just 34 kilometers (21 miles) from the border.
Putin presented Russia and its people as unifying, encouraging, and “firm in defending national interests, our freedom and security, and our values” in its place.
“Working for the common good has united society,” he added. “We are united in our thoughts, in work and in battle, on weekdays and holidays, showing the most important traits of the Russian people – solidarity, mercy, fortitude.”