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Putin praises ‘hero soldiers’ in New Year’s address

Moscow’s troops fighting at the front in the conflict with Kiev are “heroes,” President Vladimir Putin said in his annual New Year’s address on Sunday. The Russian leader said the nation had achieved a great deal in the outgoing year, adding that it had been particularly strong in defense of its interests and values.

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Russian troops effectively defended against the much-hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive. The attempted push, which lasted for around six months, ended up a major failure for Kiev, with barely any changes registered along the frontlines. It also led to heavy Ukrainian losses both in personnel and equipment, including Western-made heavy armor and weapons.

The effectiveness of the Russian Army’s tactics was recognized by Kiev’s backers, including the US, which also admitted that no Western-made weapon alone could be a game changer in the conflict.

“You are our heroes,” Putin said on Sunday, addressing the troops and saying that the nation “takes pride” in its armed forces and their courage. He also said the soldiers ought to feel assured of the love of their near and dear ones, as well as the “sincere support of millions of Russian citizens, of the whole nation.”

Putin also named “solidarity, compassion and resilience” as the “key features” of the Russian people. The country has been “steadfast in defending our national interests, our freedom and security, [and] our values that have always been and remain our unshakeable pillar.”

The Kremlin denied reports of the president’s address being altered following a Ukrainian strike on the Russian city of Belgorod. “It is not true,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Sunday. The attack on Saturday claimed the lives of 24 people and left more than 100 injured.

The Russian media also reported that Putin had already exchanged New Year’s greetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Russian leader traditionally sends official best wishes for the holidays to current and former foreign leaders in December. Last week, the Kremlin revealed who was and was not on the president’s greeting list. There had been no congratulations for the leaders of “unfriendly” nations, Peskov said.

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