| Putin urges unity in 20th anniversary New Year speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for unity for the sake of the country’s future in a New Year’s address on Tuesday marking two decades since his ascent to power.

Appearing per longtime tradition outside the Kremlin for a message to be broadcast just before midnight, the 67-year-old leader spoke to Russians for the 16th time since Boris Yeltsin’s shock New Year’s resignation in 1999.

“We live in an eventful, dynamic and controversial time, but we must do everything to make sure Russia develops successfully,” Putin, wearing a black coat, said in the message posted in advance by state channel Rossiya 1.

“Only together can we solve the problems ahead for the country, for our society. Our unity is the foundation for accomplishing the highest of goals,” he said.

“Our personal plans and dreams are indivisible from Russia’s. Its present and future depend on the efforts and contributions of each of us.”

Putin said he looked forward to celebrating the 75th anniversary of Russia’s World War II victory in 2020 and thanked veterans.

Moscow is planning to host world leaders during festivities on May 9th, one of Russia’s biggest official holidays.

Asked for the Kremlin’s view on the parting year’s key accomplishments and failures, spokesman Dmitry Peskov conceded that Russians are struggling economically, but praised the economy’s “stability”.

An address to the nation from leaders in Moscow has been a tradition since the 1970s and is shown around midnight in Russia’s 11 time zones.

In Moscow, Russians celebrating on New Year’s Eve watch the speech as they wait for a live broadcast of the Kremlin clock striking midnight and a spectacular fireworks display.

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