Putin urges unity after year of protests
RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday used a
traditional New Year's address to call for unity following a year of
protests against his return to the Kremlin for a third term.
The country's "development and fate depend on our enthusiasm and
labour, on our unity and responsibility," the ITAR-TASS news agency
quoted Putin as saying in the televised message aired first in Russia's
"Only together can we, the people of Russia, advance steadily, cope
with any trials, solve the most complicated tasks, build a strong,
successful state, a modern, prosperous and free society," Putin said.
Russia was rocked by its largest post-Soviet protests in response to
Putin's decision to seek the presidency again following a 2000-08 spell
in power in which the state cracked down on civil liberties and media
The former KGB spy served as Prime Minister for four years under his
hand-picked presidential successor Dmitry Medvedev before announcing in
September 2011 that the two had agreed to a job swap.
Putin then stormed to victory in March elections against a weak field
and was sworn in as president in May.
His inauguration was preceded by violent protests outside the Kremlin
and was followed by the adoption of laws further restricting Russians'
right to join demonstrations not authorised by the state.
The strength of such rallies has tapered off in recent months as the
opposition scrambles for a strategy that could work with 60-year-old
Putin firmly cemented in power at least through 2018.
But smaller-scale rallies still periodically continue in Moscow and
Saint Petersburg -- Russia's tsarist capital and the home town of both
Putin and many of his closest ministers and advisers.