Putin's Annual Message: New Promises and Threats of an "Asymmetric Response"

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In his message to the Federal Assembly, the President of Russia promised a number of measures of social support and warned other countries against crossing the "red line" in relations with the Russian Federation. The address to the Federal Assembly, delivered on Wednesday, April 21, by Russian President Vladimir Putin, was mainly devoted to domestic politics. The coronavirus pandemic has taken the toll on Russians' well-being who have "faced rising prices", the president acknowledged and proposed a number of measures aimed at ensuring the growth of real incomes of citizens. Social support promises The message was mainly focused on the promises of support to families with children and single-parent families. Among other things, Putin proposed introducing monthly payments to children 8-16 years old, as well as children from single-parent families, a one-time payment of 10 thousand rubles to families with school-age children, and also to establish an additional payment of 5,000 rubles for the curators of educational groups of technical schools and colleges. Year of Science and Technology Noting that 2021 has been declared the year of science and technology in Russia, Putin promised, in particular, the opening of 45 thousand budget-funded places in universities, expanding support for state universities, as well as ensuring the independence of the Russian Federation in the production of vaccines and medicines. Vladimir Putin also pledged to build 1,300 new schools, allocate 24 billion rubles to renovate houses of culture and museums in rural areas, and create a presidential fund for cultural initiatives, which will provide funding for 1,500 "creative teams" this year. The President also noted the need to gasify all households, pointing out that "people should not pay for gas laying." "Coronavirus has not been completely defeated yet" Speaking about the coronavirus pandemic, Putin acknowledged that it had caused a rise in mortality in Russia. “We faced an epidemic at a time when the consequences of demographic strikes of the 40s and 90s of the last century coincided and overlapped. The head of Kremlin stated the need to increase the average life expectancy of 78 years by 2030. "The coronavirus has not yet been completely defeated, it remains a direct threat" both in Russia and in other countries, Putin further noted. To contain the pandemic, it is necessary to "keep all frontiers under control," "both along the contour of external borders and within our country," he said. Situation in Belarus Putin announced an "attempted coup" in Belarus and a "planned assassination attempt" on Alexander Lukashenko. "The practice of organizing coups d'état and eliminating high officials is unimaginable," the president said and compared the situation in Belarus with the situation in Ukraine on the eve of the 2014 revolution. At the same time, he did not provide any evidence that a coup d'etat and the murder of Lukashenko were being prepared in Belarus. Warning to other countries Speaking about foreign policy, Putin said that other countries continue to take "unfriendly actions" against Moscow  and that "taking digs" at Russia has become a "new kind of sport." The President warned other countries against attempts to "cross the red line in relation to Russia," promising, "Where this line will be, we will determine ourselves in every particular case." If any foreign state takes Moscow's "good intentions" for weakness and decides to "burn all bridges," Russia's response will be "asymmetric, fast and tough," Putin said. "We have enough patience, confidence in our righteousness," he threatened, noting that "Russia keeps improving and strengthening its armed forces."