Russia's Putin Welcomes New Year With Sober Message
December 31, 2002
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
MOSCOW (AP)--As Russians caroused on one of the most revel-filled days of the year, President Vladimir Putin struck a soberly positive note in his New Year's message to the sprawling, troubled country.
"Russia , a country with a thousand-year history, is meeting its future properly," Putin said in a televised message broadcast as midnight arrived in each of the country's 10 time zones.
"We have the nice old tradition of giving each other presents on New Year's. Let us give today to our close ones the things most valuable and dear -warmth, attention and love," he said.
Despite cold temperatures, vast crowds were expected at Moscow's traditional outdoors midnight gatherings on Red Square and adjacent central streets for fireworks, people-watching and appearances by Ded Moroz and Snegurochka (Grandfather Frost and Snow-Maiden).
Police presence was high on the streets throughout Russia and police cadets were called out for service, Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin told the news agency ITAR-Tass.
Security worries were likely to be on many minds in the wake of the raid on a Moscow theater by Chechen gunmen in October and this week's truck-bombing of the Kremlin-backed Chechen administration in at least 71 people were killed.
Putin, in his message to the nation, made only vague reference to the security and other problems that plague much of the country.
"Right now, not forgetting about the past, we of course think of the future," he said.