TODAY: 8.6m celebrate New Year, Putin gives annual address, promises continuing support for Syria; Russia smuggling fuel to North Korea; Navalny appeal rejected; supermarket bombing suspect indicted; Browder sentenced in absentia.
Around 8.6 million Russians participated in New Year’s celebration events across the country, with 75,000 law enforcement personnel employed to ensure security. In his New Year’s Address, President Vladimir Putin thanked his citizens for believing in their country, fulfilling their work duties, and urged everyone to “to tell words of love and care to each other, forgive mistakes and offences, to hug, to warm with care and attention.” (Read the full text here.) In a separate newscast, he said he does not think about his role in history or “make a big deal out of [my]self”. In his New Year’s greeting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Putin vowed to continue Russia’s support of Syria’s efforts to defend its sovereignty. Russian tankers have supplied fuel to North Korea at least three times in recent months through cargo transfers at sea, says a Reuters exclusive; the transfers are in breach of UN sanctions and are being referred to as smuggling.
The Supreme Court rejected Alexei Navalny’s appeal against the decision to bar him from running in the presidential elections this year; he responded by reiterating his call for a voter boycott. The Investigative Committee says it has indicted the suspect in last week’s St Petersburg supermarket bombing on charges of terrorism. Putin signed a new law to double the penalty for false bomb reports or fire to 10 years, following a spate of false reports at the end of last year. The first LNG shipment from Yamal in Siberia did not make it to the UK, contrary to a tweet from the Russian embassy in London, prompting accusations of fake news.
A Moscow court has handed down a 9-year prison sentence to UK-based financier William Browder, in absentia, for tax evasion; Browder was the driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, and has dismissed all of the allegations. Historian Arseny Roginsky, who founded human rights group Memorial in 1988, has died aged 71.
PHOTO: Happy New Year. (Marina Lystseva/TASS)