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Mr. Putin, the mic is yours For the first time in almost two years, Russia’s president addressed both houses of Parliament in a major speech on the state of the Federation
On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, Vladimir Putin addressed both houses of Russia’s Parliament. Meduza covered the speech’s main points in this live blog. You can watch the Russian-language feed yourself here.
Thanks for tuning in, everyone! This concludes Meduza’s live coverage of Vladimir Putin’s 2023 Federal Assembly address.
Vowing that Russia will meet any challenge and declaring that “the truth is with us,” Putin concludes his speech. Russia’s national anthem is now playing. Some members of the audience are singing along.
Putin appears to be beginning his conclusion now, almost two hours into the speech.
Putin suspends Russia’s cooperation with the New START Treaty (but it’s not a full withdrawal)
Addressing the issue of halted inspections under the New START Treaty, Putin says it’s nonsense to allow in U.S. inspectors while Washington is assisting Ukraine in attacks on Russian aviation. Putin says he ordered Russia’s new strategic ground-based complexes to be moved to combat readiness, a week ago.
The conditions that led to the signing of the New START Treaty and other arms control agreements no longer exist, says Putin, stressing the Moscow isn’t officially withdrawing from the agreement. If the U.S. conducts any nuclear tests, Russia will follow suit, warns the president.
In 2023, Russia will open 400 new schools, says Putin.
Putin proposes retroactively paying multiple-child family subsidies to families with children born since 2007 in Russia’s “new regions.”
Putin urges a return to six-year terms of study in Russian universities. (He’s talking about abandoning the Bologna Process that ensures comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications across Europe.) Next, he vows to raise the country’s minimum wage in January 2024 to 19,240 rubles ($260) per month.
Putin says the Russian authorities will “support all forms of creativity,” adding that “culture shouldn’t destroy society but should bring out the best human qualities.” Cultural development will be a priority in Russia’s “new regions,” he says.
So far in the speech, Putin has not indicated any change of course in Ukraine, neither in terms of tactics nor strategy.
“Russia’s right is the right to be strong,” says Putin, quoting Tsarist official Pyotr Stolypin. (The phrase gets another standing ovation.)
Voting will go ahead in 2023 and 2024
Putin commits to regional and municipal elections scheduled for 2023. All laws and rules will be observed in these elections, he insists. Putin makes the same commitment to Russia’s next presidential election in 2024.
Putin urges Russians to “preserve and pass on” the civilization they’ve inherited from their ancestors. He then praises Russian society’s fortitude during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Putin is calling on Russia’s investor class to keep their wealth inside Russia. (He’s said this repeatedly over the years.)
Putin faults post-Soviet Russia with trying to “copy” Western capitalism, which only transformed the country into a source of raw materials. As a result, more advanced industries developed slowly, says Putin. Russian businesspeople’s investments in Western technology were “simply stolen” after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. But ordinary Russians don’t mourn the super-rich who lost their yachts abroad.
Thanks to a strong balance of payments, Russia doesn’t need to borrow money from abroad, says Putin. The domestic banking system hasn’t faltered. Russia’s inflation rate is approaching a target level of 4 percent, while it’s now between 17 and 20 percent in some EU countries, says Putin.
If Russian companies by Russian I.T. solutions, they will be able to claim tax deductions, says Putin.
“We have entered a new cycle of economic growth,” says Putin, adding that Russia’s “strategic task is to bring our economy to new frontiers.” He is now describing infrastructure projects and various expansions of factories across Russia and explaining the new foreign markets where their products will be sold.
The websites of several Russian TV networks have reportedly been hit by DDoS attacks since Putin started speaking.
Putin says that Russia must not repeat the mistakes of the past, referring apparently to the USSR’s excessive investments in defense at the expense of civilian goods and services (“guns over butter”).
The two-week leave Putin proposes giving to Russian soldiers would repeat “every six months” — perhaps a hint at how long he expects the war to go on.
The West (“such humanitarians”) “want the Russians to suffer,” says Putin, describing the many sanctions unleashed against Russia in the past year. “But the Russian economy turned out to be stronger than they thought.” He then adds that the federal government has released 1 trillion rubles ($13.3 billion) to businesses across the country.
Putin is now describing Russia’s efforts to mobilize its military-industrial complex and economic potential for the war effort. He urges a program for partially subsidized preferential housing for workers in the defense industry. The West is also challenging Russia “on the economic front,” he says.
Putin proposes a two-week leave period for soldiers in the war to relieve their “colossal stress” in combat.
Putin urges the creation of a new state foundation to assist the families of killed soldiers in the “special military operation.” The new organization will have a sweeping mandate: from financial assistance to the education of veterans’ children and distribution of rehabilitation services.
Putin gets a standing ovation when he mentions the four Ukrainian regions Russia annexed last year. (Russian soldiers still don’t control these regions.) There is then a standing moment of silence for everyone who’s died since the invasion began. (Putin did not specify how many people this is, so far.)
Changing tone a bit, Putin is now thanking a laundry list of soldiers and their families, doctors, nurses, and everyone else contributing directly and indirectly to the war effort. (He even singles out “war correspondents” — the group of bloggers who have gained prominence and apparently influence since the February 2022 invasion.)
Putin warns that the West will be betting on “national traitors,” and these people be held responsible under the law, he says.
The crowd is now applauding Putin’s disgust that some Western churches are exploring gender-neutral language to describe God.
The West seeks Russia’s “strategic defeat,” says Putin. Washington and its allies want to be done with Putin, once and for all. Russia will respond accordingly, Putin warns, describing the West’s supposed “information attacks” against Russia’s youth, culture, religious groups, and so on. (Putin next claims that the West has normalized pedophilia, gay marriage, and so on.)
“We are not at war with the people of Ukraine. They’ve become hostages of their own regime and its Western masters,” says Putin.
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