Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honoured his people’s resilience in times of bloodshed in a long and lyrical New Year speech, while Russian leader Vladimir Putin stressed his country’s unity in a short and stern message that made only passing reference to the war.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honoured his people's resilience in times of bloodshed in a long and lyrical New Year speech, while Russian leader Vladimir Putin stressed his country's unity in a short and stern message that made only passing reference to the war.
The speeches — traditional December 31 messages in both Russia and Ukraine — came as both countries marked the end of the year with increased air attacks on each other's territories. But neither side can point to any major frontline achievements in 2023.
"The major result of the year, its main achievement: Ukraine has become stronger," Mr. Zelenskyy said in a televised address interspersed with footage of cities under attack and meetings with leaders of Ukraine's Western allies.
Mentioning "war" 14 times in his 20-minute message, Mr. Zelenskyy also vowed, just like a year ago, that a free Ukraine would prevail.
"No matter how many rockets the enemy launches, no matter how many shellings and attacks — vile, merciless, massive — the enemy carries out in an attempt to break Ukrainians, intimidate, knock Ukraine down, drive it underground, we will still rise," he said, dressed in his trademark khaki outfit.
Comments by Vladimir Putin, who faces an election in March, provided a sharp contrast to those of Mr. Zelenskyy and also to his own speech last year, when he cast the war as a near-existential fight.
This year, he called Russia's soldiers "our heroes," but did not mention Ukraine by name and did not refer to the "special military operation" - his term for the war his invasion unleashed in February 2022.