New year address, Vladimir Putin defends interest in 2021.

In a New Year’s address, President Vladimir Putin said Moscow “firmly” protected its interests in 2021, a year marked by unprecedented crackdowns on the opposition and rising tensions with the West.

“We firmly and consistently defended our national interests, the security of the country and (of) citizens,” Putin said in a televised speech.

Russian news outlets reported the program, which aired at midnight in the Far Eastern Kamchatka peninsula.

Russia has launched a dramatic assault on organizations and individuals critical of Putin this year, beginning with the imprisonment of his most vocal critic, Alexei Navalny, in February.

Tensions between Russia and the West have also risen to unprecedented heights as a result of the Ukraine crisis.

In a phone contact with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, Putin discussed the rising tensions.

The Kremlin chief, who has been in charge since 1999, also expressed his solidarity for Russians who have lost family members to Covid. His country has been affected particularly hard by the pandemic.

“The insidious disease has claimed tens of thousands of lives,” he said.

“I want to express my sincere support to everyone who has lost relatives, loved-ones, friends,” he added.

More than 71,000 individuals died of coronavirus in Russia in November, according to Russia’s national statistics agency, setting a new monthly fatality record since the pandemic began.

Putin also stated that the “primary purpose” of Moscow in the future is to “increase people’s welfare and quality of life.”

Starting in Kamchatka and finishing in the western Kaliningrad exclave, Russia celebrates New Year across its 11 time zones.

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