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‘Modern weaponry should protect ordinary Russians’ What Putin’s speechwriters are planning for his overdue Federal Assembly address
The Russian president is required by law to address parliament at least once a year, but Vladimir Putin has shirked that rule twice: first in 2017 and again in 2022. What was supposed to be the 2017 address was eventually delivered in March 2018, but the president’s 2022 speech still hasn’t happened. Last month, journalist Farida Rustamova reported that the president’s speechwriters were still working on the address, and shortly after, two Russian state news outlets reported that it will likely take place in late February. Now, Meduza special correspondent Andrey Pertsev has learned from sources close to the Putin administration what the president is likely to say when he finally addresses lawmakers.
Russia’s Constitution requires the president to deliver an address to the Federal Assembly at least once a year. The last time Vladimir Putin did so, however, was in April of 2021 — almost two years ago. This past December, Russian media reported that Putin’s address would not come before the end of 2022 and would instead be postponed to 2023. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov cited the president’s “busy schedule.”
In late January, political journalist (and former Meduza special correspondent) Farida Rustamova reported that the speech was being actively revised and rewritten. “The exact date is still unknown. One of our sources made a morbid joke about how he wouldn’t be surprised if the address takes place on February 24 [the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine],” she wrote.
Soon after that, Russian state media agencies TASS and RIA Novosti, citing their own anonymous sources, reported that Putin’s address will indeed take place in late February, though likely a few days earlier than the anniversary of the invasion. The Kremlin hasn’t officially confirmed these dates, and Dmitry Peskov said that work on the speech’s text “never stopped“ (rather than having resumed).
Meduza has learned from two sources close to the Kremlin that the text is still in development, and that employees from the Russian government, the federal Security Council, and the Putin administration’s political bloc are all working on proposed changes to it.
“The frame of the address will be the war. Like how COVID-19 was the frame in 2021,” said a source close to the Putin administration. According to Meduza’s sources, the current plan is for Putin to “devote particular attention” to the support the state has provided for participants of the “special military operation” (Kremlin parlance for the war against Ukraine), as well as to the “restoration and development” of Ukraine’s occupied territories.
Meduza’s sources also said that Putin is expected to talk about how Russians have “come together” to give their “unequivocal support” to the war effort (though there’s no reliable data to back this claim up; in fact, surveys have found the opposite).
The Putin administration’s political bloc is also reportedly working on “foreign policy messages” for the address. Presumably, the president will touch on what have become his traditional topics: the new “multipolar world” and Russia’s “anticolonial policies.” Meduza’s sources said that part of the address will likely be devoted to “successful examples of import substitution” and other “successes” in Russia’s fight against sanctions.
Additionally, according to sources, the president plans to talk about new planned “social support measures” for Russians, and to assure people that despite the war in Ukraine, “ordinary [Russian] citizens shouldn’t worry, because modern weaponry should protect them.”
At the same time, Meduza’s sources noted that the content (and the date) of the president’s speech could change significantly if the situation on the battlefield changes. “Right now, [the Kremlin] considers [the situation] to be stable. It’s a good background, there have been some successes: Soledar [is occupied],” said one source. Both sources agreed that if Ukraine manages to launch a successful counteroffensive, Putin can be expected to use “more aggressive” rhetoric: “Everything will depend on the moment.”
Translation by Sam Breazeale
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