Putin breaks tradition, gives 2 New Year's talks

AP News
Posted: Dec 31, 2013 3:50 PM

MOSCOW (AP) — Vladimir Putin has added a twist to the stolid ritual of Russian presidential New Year's Eve address by doing two versions this year.

Russian leaders traditionally make short, prerecorded messages to be broadcast as the year begins in each of the country's nine time zones.

The address broadcast in Russia's Far East was typical, showing Putin at the Kremlin and calling for Russians to work together, according to Russian news websites. But an hour later, Putin came out with a different speech mentioning this week's suicide bombings in Volgograd that killed 34 people and vowing to destroy terrorists.

Putin made that recording, which was broadcast in other time zones as well, on Tuesday while visiting the city of Khabarovsk. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there wasn't time to get it to the Far East, according to Ekho Moskvy radio.

Few people were out on the streets of Volgograd as the last hours of 2013 ticked away. Large public gatherings for the holiday were cancelled and residents were asked to refrain from setting off fireworks.

In Moscow, festivities went on, with large numbers of people gathering at the skating rinks in Red Square and Gorky Park.

Russian news agencies said 28 people were detained by police in Moscow after trying to hold an unauthorized rally.

Opposition activists attempt to hold a rally on the last day of every month with 31 days, a reference to Article 31 of the Russian constitution that guarantees free assembly. Authorities routinely deny permission for the demonstrations.