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

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 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.

09:39 21.4.2021

Plenty To Talk About As Putin Prepares For Annual Address To Parliament

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to give his 17th annual state-of-the-nation address to a joint session of the Russian parliament in Moscow on April 21 amid a slew of crises both at home and abroad.

Internationally, the address comes at a time of heightened tensions between Russia and the West, a simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine, and unrest in neighboring Belarus following a disputed presidential election last August.

Domestically, Putin will speak live to the nation just hours before supporters of imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny gather for mass protests to demand the anti-corruption campaigner be given independent medical care, as well as amid preparations for legislative elections to be held before September 19 and the continued economic and social fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic.

On the eve of the speech, U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan announced he would return to the United States for consultations, just days after Washington imposed a fresh batch of sanctions on Russia for its alleged cyberattacks on the United States and interference in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

Russia has also ramped up its military capabilities along its border with Ukraine and in and around the annexed Ukrainian Black Sea region of Crimea. Since 2014, Russia has provided military, economic, and political support to separatist formations in parts of eastern Ukraine that are waging war against Kyiv. Tensions have been on the rise in recent weeks, with sporadic fighting breaking out and the peace process remaining stalled.

Meanwhile, police raided several regional offices of Navalny’s organizations in anticipation of the protests scheduled for the evening of April 21. Navalny has been on a hunger strike for more than three weeks, demanding that he be seen by his own doctors. Prison authorities transferred him on April 19 to a prison with a hospital, despite saying that his health was “satisfactory.”

Russia is preparing for elections to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, with the ruling United Russia party facing historically low popularity ratings. In recent weeks, the authorities have cracked down on dissent in what many analysts see as a bid to strictly control the election process and outcome.

In the past, Putin has sometimes used the speech to put forward significant policy moves. Last year, he announced preparations for a raft of constitutional amendments that ended up including one that makes it possible for him to remain president until 2036. Shortly after the speech, then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and the cabinet resigned, and former Federal Tax Service head Mikhail Mishustin was tapped to replace him.

In 2018, Putin gave a lavish, high-tech presentation that included video presentations of several advanced weapons systems, including an intercontinental ballistic missile, a nuclear-powered cruise missile, an unmanned nuclear-powered underwater drone, and the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system.

Putin’s speech is scheduled to begin at noon local time in Moscow. In addition to members of both chambers of parliament, the audience will include the prime minister, the cabinet, senior judges, military and security officials, senior leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and other major religious groups, and other guests. According to TASS, some 450 journalists have been accredited to cover the events.

Putin, a 68-year-old former KGB officer, has led Russia as president or prime minister since 1999.

10:57 21.4.2021

11:05 21.4.2021

Big day for Russia watchers and Kremlinologists.

Putin's speech, beginning at 1100 CET (0500 EDT), is top of the agenda.

In what appears to be an attempt to steal Putin's thunder, or at least change the narrative, allies of Aleksei Navalny have called for national protests later in the day. Navalny is sitting in a prison infirmary about 100 kilometers east of Moscow, where he is in his third week of a hunger strike and is seriously ill, according to doctors. His spokeswoman has said he is dying.

Russian police are apparently taking no chances, cordoning off much of central Moscow, and doing similar things in other major cities. If there is a turnout of demonstrators, it's all but certain it will be met with a brutal police crackdown.

And that's not all!

On Friday, the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, will be convening for an unusual session, called by the chamber's chief, Valentina Matvivenko, a close Putin ally. She was quoted as saying that lawmakers must be prepared for "quick implementation" of whatever Putin will be announcing.

11:35 21.4.2021

Russian police have already cordoned off much of central Moscow, in anticipation of the protests that have been called by supporters of Aleksei Navalny.

Police in Vladivostok, the port city located 9,000 kilometers east of Moscow on the Pacific coast, clearly aren't taking any chances either.

11:48 21.4.2021

The Russia 24 moderator just reminded audiences that President Putin's first state-of-the-nation address, on June 8, 2000, was 48 minutes long. The longest speech came in at just under two hours in 2018. On average, TASS reports, they are about 75 minutes long.

12:00 21.4.2021

Lots of speculation what exactly Putin intends to announce during his speech today. Among many subjects under scrutiny:

Russia's relationship with Belarus.

In recent weeks, there's been a spate of unusual news surrounding Belarus and its strongman leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The country has been gripped by unprecedented political turmoil since last August, when he claimed reelection victory and opposition groups cried foul and took to the streets.

Lukashenka has shown no indication he's backing down. On the contrary, there have been indications that he's seeking an tighter embrace with Moscow.

Over the weekend, he made an eyebrow-raising claim that he was the target of a U.S.-backed assassination plot.

While police in Moscow are girding for protests, police in Minsk appear to be preparing for something as well-- even though there are no protests scheduled or called for today in the Belarusian capital.

12:03 21.4.2021

Major speculation among Russia watchers today as to what international moves Putin may announce, with a huge Russian military buildup on the border with Ukraine and Russia's continued involvement in the tense political landscape of neighboring Belarus. However, with the speech expected to last over an hour, expect any bombshells to come toward the end, as in previous years.

12:06 21.4.2021

President Putin has entered the hall and has begun his speech. Says the speech will be primarily about domestic matters -- health care, the economy. Will say "several words" about security and international issues.

12:07 21.4.2021

Putin begins, as expected, by mentioning the pandemic, which hit the entire world as a surprise. Talks briefly about the hard times at the beginning of the pandemic when hospitals were overflowing and supplies were short. Putin, however, never doubted that Russia would get through and praises the country for "coming together."

12:08 21.4.2021

Putin opens by promising a focus on internal problems, an overture to a Russian population that has seen real wages fall for several years and growing frustration over economic stagnation, exacerbated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in Russia.

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