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Putin marks New Year in Russian Far East with flood victims

By The Siberian Times reporter
01 January 2014

Russian president changes his midnight address to honour the bombing victims in Volgograd - and eliminate terrorists.

Family of Bair Banzaraktsayev, the military man who died taking part in the rescue effort during the flood in the Far East of Russia, with Vladimir Putin. Picture: kremlin.ru

Vladimir Putin flew to Khabarovsk on 31 December to show solidarity with locals who suffered from devastating floods in summer 2013. 

In a revamped New Year message, he said: 'In the outgoing year, we had to face problems and stand serious trials, such as the brutal terrorist attacks in Volgograd and unprecedented natural calamities in the Far East.'

He appeared at a temporary housing centre for victims of the flooding - and to invite them to a New Year gala reception at the Khabarovsk House of Culture.

'The president decided to spend the New Year's Eve with these people who survived this unprecedented natural calamity and here he pronounced his greeting address to them,' said presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov. En route the presidential plane made a stopover in Chita and took on board the widow of the only person known to have died in the floods. 

Bair Banzaraktsayev, a military man who took part in the rescue effort, had been driving a truck along a partially inundated highway linking Khabarovsk and another far-eastern city, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, when damp soil gave way under the heavy vehicle. He drowned while trying to prevent his truck from sliding into the water.

Shortly after the clock struck midnight, Putin handed over a medal For Courage to the widow, and a passport to the man's daughter who had recently turned 14. In a break with tradition the president's pre-recorded midnight address was replaced at the last night with a new version from Khabarovsk in response to the traumatic double bombing in Volgograd. 

'In the outgoing year, we had to face problems and stand serious trials, such as the brutal terrorist attacks in Volgograd and unprecedented natural calamities in the Far East,' he said in the new message. 

Russia was traditionally 'united and consolidated' in times of trouble, he stressed. 'Dear friends, let us bow our heads to the victims of the cruel acts of terror,' he said. 'I am confident we shall be resolute and persistent in our fight against terrorists until their complete extermination.'

Russian president changes his midnight address to honour the bombing victims in Volgograd - and eliminate terrorists

Vladimir Putin pictured on 1st of January in Volgograd where he flew overnight, with the victim of the recent terrorist attack. Picture: kremlin.ru

The floods in the Russian Far East were the worst ever. Putin praised those who 'stood the trial of the natural calamity with dignity and honour' but could not welcome the New Year at their own homes. He said he wanted to congratulate the country together with these people, 'to lift a glass to the Russian people, to the health of those who had to withstand the floods', and promised to 'support all those who were affected by the disaster'.

The regions of Kamchatka, Chukotka and Magadan, all eight hours ahead of Moscow, were shown a version that showed Putin speaking from within the Kremlin walls in Moscow. 

Watch Vladimir Putin New Year's address from the Far East of Russia:

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