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Live Blog: Putin's Annual State-Of-The-Nation Address As It Happened

Follow as our team of Russia experts monitored the speech, highlighted the news, and offered personal takes on Putin's remarks.


Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow on April 21, 2021.

Highlights

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin used his 17th annual state-of-the-nation address to a joint session of the Russian parliament to issue threats against what he called foreign provocations, vowing amid several widening rifts with the West that Moscow would respond in a harsh and swift way.
  • Putin said that Moscow strived to have good relations with other countries, but warned no foreign state should cross Russia's "red lines" without elaborating. "Anyone who stages any provocations that threaten our safety will regret it in a way they've never regretted anything before," Putin said.
  • At the start of his address, Putin focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Russia hard. Putin said that Russians should attain collective immunity from COVID-19 by this autumn and urged all citizens to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
  • Read our news summary here.

*Time stamps on the blog refer to local time in Moscow.

14:08 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Michael Scollon

One new development was Putin's revelation that he is a fan of the "great writer" Rudyard Kipling.

Putin dropped the English novelist's name while alleging that many countries were making a sport of ganging up on Russia, with "all kinds of small Tabaquis running around Shere Khan...howling to gain the favor of their ruler."

The assumption is that Putin meant that the tiger king Shere Khan was the United States and the scrap-eating jackals surrounding him were U.S. allies, but he did not give any hint as to which Jungle Book character Russia might be.

Nevertheless, pro-Kremlin blogger Maksim Kononenko described the comment on Telegram as "powerful," while alleging that Kipling was an "imperialist and a Nazist." Other commenters on the thread suggested, however, that Putin's "joke about Kipling being a good writer did not go over well."

13:55 21.4.2021
16x9 Image RFE/RL

a few other hot takes on Putin's speech today:

13:40 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Mike Eckel

Was Putin's speech more or less bellicose than past years?

My colleague Matthew Luxmoore argues it was not: We did not hear about all the new super weapons that Russia is or has developed; in the past, that has taken up a sizable amount of time. And his threats were echoes of past statements.

I'm inclined to disagree, particularly given the larger context: the largest buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border since 2014 (according to U.S. and Western officials); lots of weirdness regarding Belarus, and the fate, or intentions, of its strongman leader, Alyaksandr Lukasenka; President Joe Biden's administration hitting Moscow with two rounds of sanctions, and threatening more.

Putin drew an explicit parallel between Belarus today and the events in Ukraine in 2014 that led to 1) the ouster of the pro-Russian president there, 2) Moscow's annexation of Crimea, and 3) Russia's fomenting of a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

And he all but threatened the West.

"I hope that no one will think of crossing a red line with Russia. And we will decide ourselves where it will be."

"Russia has its interests which we defend and will defend within the framework of international law, as a matter of fact just as other countries of the world do. If somebody refuses to realize this obvious thing, is reluctant to conduct a dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone, Russia will always find a way to defend its position."

If you don't want to call it war-mongering, it's definitely bellicose.

Don't. Mess. With. Us.

13:26 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Matthew Luxmoore

Of course, the day is not over. And there are protests expected across Russia in what the opposition has billed as a "final battle between good and neutrality." But the speech and turnout in various cities so far suggest the Kremlin is not too concerned.

13:26 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Robert Coalson

The text of Putin's speech is being placed on the Kremlin website in Russian here.

13:24 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Matthew Luxmoore

Putin ends his address to the Federal Assembly. Little of the warmongering we expected and no new annexation or military conflict has been announced, contrary to much speculation ahead of this event. Overall a pretty dry speech focused on domestic problems and the pandemic.

13:24 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Michael Scollon

Navalny's headquarters in Ufa has announced that volunteer worker Olga Komleva has been detained and taken to an unknown location.

"Before that, an unidentified man in a silver Mercedes stood near her house for more than five hours," the regional HQ tweeted.

13:23 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Robert Coalson

Says government will achieve all the goals it sets for itself. Thanks the audience and the national anthem begins to play.

13:21 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Robert Coalson

"In conclusion," Putin returns to the topic of the pandemic and claims Russia did everything possible to mitigate the crisis in the areas of health care, social policy, industry, science, etc.

13:21 21.4.2021
16x9 Image Mike Eckel

Now we're in the more "serious" part of Putin's speech.

First half was dedicated to domestic concerns: economics, health, rising food prices, social welfare.

Now he's threatening potential adversaries, reminding the world of Russia's (formidable) weaponry.

And he's drawing a parallel between the 2014 events in Ukraine-- where mass protests led to the Russian-friendly president being forced from power-- and the ongoing political turmoil in Belarus-- where the longtime strongman leader there has refused to budge in the face of months of opposition protests.

"Whoever threatens our essential security interests will regret it like they've never regretted anything before....

"We ourselves will determine where the red line is in each specific case..."

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