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Russia Welcomes the New Year; President Putin Addresses the Nation

Aired December 31, 2000 - 3:59 p.m. ET


GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: The New Year is about one minute away in Moscow, as Russians prepare to ring in 2001. I'm Gene Randall in Washington with a special welcome to our international viewers.

Red Square in Moscow is the setting for the always big Russian celebration of the New Year. Our bureau chief there, Jill Dougherty, is watching the pictures with us.

Jill, give us some idea of what is going on.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Gene, you can see the Stocky (ph) Tower there -- the clock tower, and time almost -- New Year's, the beginning, as the Russians are believing, the beginning of a new millennium and the beginning of a new year. And lots of festivities down on Red Square.

The difference, you know, Gene, in the old days, it was a pretty somber place, but I'm sure, in a few minutes we're going to see -- there will be fireworks and there have been people milling about on the Square, and they now have, believe it or not, a skating rink on Red Square, right across --right down, a little bit, from Lenin's tomb. So it's a lot more friendly place than it used to be, and certainly, people are really excited.

This is the biggest celebration of the year. Russians, some of them, celebrate Christmas -- Orthodox Christmas -- there we go; you can get a good scene in Basils Cathedral, with the fireworks in the distance. Quite a phantom-like show.

RANDALL: Jill, what kind of crowd do you see there?

DOUGHERTY: Well, there are quite a lot of people down there. It's a little hard to see it, because, actually, we are looking from behind Saint Basils. So beyond Saint Basils are the crowds of people, and traditionally, Russians have always gone down to Red Square, It's an amazing sight, you know, for anyone, and they gather there. There, you can see a few more people now -- people gathering and walking around, and throughout Moscow, coming out to walk: that's the thing they love to do.

RANDALL: And Jill, this is moment, I take it.

DOUGHERTY: This is it! RANDALL: Once again, the scene is Red Square in Moscow, a huge celebration of 2001. Our bureau chief Jill Dougherty is on the phone with us, describing what she sees there. It is a very picturesque scene in the Russian capital; a real light show going on there.

Jill, how is weather?

DOUGHERTY: You know, it's not as cold as you might think. It's just about freezing. It had been very cold. But -- whoops, there goes, I guess, the fireworks are obliterating our picture as we speak. But, one thing, Gene: the big difference this year, of course, is that they have a new anthem. That's a new, old anthem. President Putin wanted to bring back the old Soviet anthem, and there was a lot of controversy about that. Many people on the more liberal side of things, said that they'd never stand up and sing an anthem that was written during the time of Stalin, but it did come back, but it has new lyrics. And they're a little different.

You know, the old one used to say "party of Lenin, the strength of the people, through Communism's triumph lead us on," and the new one has a lot more -- let's say, peaceful imagery. "You are unique, Russia, unique native land protected by God," but people are singing it. It's -- one thing is, the melody's very catchy and a lot of people felt that it reminded them of the good old days, when Russia was in the leading -- the forefront of space and other things.

RANDALL: Jill, it was exactly a year ago to the day when Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin as interim president of Russia. He was later re-elected to a full four-year term. I understand that President Putin made a speech on nationwide television tonight.

DOUGHERTY: He did, and it was his first, actually, real New Year's speech to the people of Russia. And if there was any theme, it was really stability. That's the one thing that he wants to bring to Russia and let's listen to what he said.

Putin delivering that New Year's speech to the people, saying that it had been a year of joyful, but tragic, events also, of course, remembering -- he did not specifically say this, but he did talk about stability and that's really the overriding theme of his presidency so far.

RANDALL: Do we have that Putin tape, can someone tell me? OK, let's roll part of that:


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Dear friends, respected citizens of Russia, during these minutes, we not only are checking our watches, we also are checking our intentions and our feelings, checking our expectations and what we have in reality. One more year is behind us. A year of happy and tragic events, a year of difficult decisions. Nevertheless, things that once seemed quite impossible, are becoming a fact of life.

Notable elements of stability have appeared in our country, and that is worth a lot for politics, for the economy, and for each of us. We have realized at what cost our country's dignity comes, and how highly it is appreciated. Together with you, we know that on this festive night, far from everyone, has a bountiful table, not is there happiness and success in every home. We have to remember that, and not to forget that we still have a lot of work to do. But only to together can we accomplish this. And then the time will surely come when we are not worrying about our old people, or our children.

Dear friends, I know that all of are you are already looking at your watches. In just a few seconds, we shall simultaneously enter a new year, a new century, and a new millennium. This rarely happens, and will happen again for our descendants, whose lives are difficult for us to imagine today. It is to them that we will leave our legacy of both of our successes and our mistakes, but during these minutes, each of us is thinking of our nearest and dearest.

I want to wish you what one usually wishes his relatives and friends: good health, peace, prosperity, and, of course, success. Happiness to you and happy New Year.


DOUGHERTY: So, President Vladimir Putin in his New Year's remarks to the Russian people, marking exactly a year, in fact, since he was chosen by former President Boris Yeltsin to be his successor -- and a beautiful explosion there of the fireworks over Red Square in downtown Moscow.

RANDALL: Jill, before we break away from these pictures in Red Square, how would you characterize Vladimir Putin's political position as he begins his second year in office?

DOUGHERTY: Gene, if you look at his ratings, they are very high. They range somewhere around 65 to 70 percent. There are a lot of people who have some hope in him that he will restore their economic situation, improve their lives, but it's difficult to know really what, specifically, they want, or what they are getting from Mr. Putin.

There is a lot of pent-up hope, but some would argue that they really have no other choice. There is no-one but Vladimir Putin, and they can only pin their hopes on him, and hope that he will be able to do something in this new year -- a crucial new year coming for the Russian people.

RANDALL: Our Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty in the Russian capital, and Jill, happy New Year to all of you at the Moscow bureau, or I guess I should say, snogum gotum (ph).

DOUGHERTY: Snogum gotum (ph).



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