Vladimir Putin may be upset to discover that his hotly anticipated state-of-the-nation address delivered this morning in central Moscow was not quite as impactful as he would have hoped.
Almost one year to the day of his invasion of Ukraine, the despot took to the stage in Moscow before both of Russia’s houses of Parliament and a sea of military commanders, where he launched a marathon tirade against the West.
He spoke with passion and venom, but even the cream of the Kremlin crop couldn’t help but show signs of fatigue as top officials were seen yawning amid their president’s 115-minute-long rant.
Clips from Russian state media’s live coverage of the speech even appeared to show several audience members nodding off in their chairs as Putin continued to ramble for an hour and 45 minutes.
Then, as his speech finally concluded and the Russian national anthem began blaring from the speakers, many attendees were seen refusing to sing, wearing stone-faced expressions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual meeting with the Federal Assembly on February 21, 2023, in Moscow, Russia
Several members of the audience in Moscow were seen bowing their heads with their eyes closed, apparently having nodded off as Putin continued to rant
Many attendees covered their mouths to yawn, and none looked very pleased by the content of Putin’s speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to deliver his annual state of the nation address at the Gostiny Dvor conference centre in central Moscow
Images of bored and disapproving officials watching their president rant hark back to similar scenes in September when Putin delivered another lengthy speech to announce Russia had annexed four territories in eastern and southern Ukraine, despite not being in full control of any of them.
For much of his reign, Putin was long seen as a master communicator and an excellent, engaging speaker, but it appears those days are over.
The address at the Russian capital’s Gostiny Dvor conference centre this morning covered a lot of ground – though most of it focused on his ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine and condemning the West.
He accused Western nations of starting the war in Ukraine and of trying to turn it into a global conflict against Russia to gain ‘limitless power’.
‘We were doing everything possible to solve this problem peacefully, negotiating a peaceful way out of this difficult conflict, but behind our backs a very different scenario was being prepared,’ Putin told lawmakers and servicemen.
He said he was addressing them ‘at a time which we all know is a difficult, watershed moment for our country, a time of cardinal, irreversible changes around the world, the most important historic events that will shape the future of our country and our people,’ and vowed to ‘systematically’ continue with the offensive in Ukraine.
Citing another justification he has used for the war, Putin claimed his forces are protecting civilians in regions of Ukraine that Moscow has since illegally annexed.
‘We are defending people’s lives, our home,’ he said. ‘And the West is striving for an unlimited domination.’
Putin framed fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region between Kyiv’s forces and Russian-backed separatists as a fight for freedom. Fighting there has been ongoing since 2014, and has been used by Putin as justification to launch the larger offensive.
Kremlin insiders and top Russian officials listen to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation address
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address
‘Starting from 2014, the Donbas has been fighting [for the] right to live in one’s own land and speak one’s native language, fighting without surrender in the environment of constant threats and hatred that was coming from the Kyiv regime,’ he said.
Russian state TV website goes down during Putin speech
Russian state media websites broadcasting President Vladimir Putin’s address to the country’s two houses of parliaments on Tuesday suffered an outage during his speech.
Reuters journalists in multiple locations were unable to access the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) website or the Smotrim live-streaming platform for periods during the speech.
A message on the VGTRK website said that ‘technical works were being carried out’ while the Smotrim website was not loading.
Shortly before the speech started, state TV channels had broadcast a segment on the technical preparations that go into broadcasting the speech, saying the live stream would be carried across all major Russian TV channels.
The state-run RIA Novosti news agency said the outage was the result of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyber attack.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the reason for the outages.
Reporting by Reuters
‘Meanwhile, and you know it very well, we were doing everything possible, really everything possible, to settle that problem by peaceful means.’
Changing tack, Putin went on to rail against perceived Western stupidity and said the West was waging a culture war against Russian Orthodox Christian values.
‘The Anglican Church plans to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God… Millions of people in the West understand they are being led to a real spiritual catastrophe,’ Putin declared.
He accused Western nations of changing historical facts to suit ‘woke’ ideologies and staunchly criticised the Church’s recent discussions on allowing priests to ‘bless’ same-sex marriages.
‘They distort historical facts, constantly attack our culture, the Russian Orthodox Church, and other traditional religions of our country. ‘Look at what they do with their own peoples: the destruction of the family, cultural and national identity, perversion, and the abuse of children are declared the norm. And priests are forced to bless same-sex marriages,’ Putin said.
The despot’s armoured motorcade was spotted heading to the Kremlin at around 1am local time hours before the speech began this morning, with traffic stopped in central Moscow to make way.
There was no official explanation for Putin’s late-night dash to the Kremlin ahead of the state-of-the-nation address.
While the Constitution mandates that the president deliver the speech annually, Putin never gave one in 2022, as his troops suffered repeated setbacks.
Underscoring the anticipation ahead of time, some state TV channels put out a countdown for the event starting on Monday, and Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday morning said the address may be ‘historic’.
The Kremlin this year has barred media from ‘unfriendly’ countries, the list of which includes the US, the UK and those in the EU.
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