Putin speech takes on social issues, crisis with the West and grand plans for Arctic infrastructure

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address in Manezh, Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Putin’s state-of-the-nation speech comes amid a new surge in tensions with the West over a Russian troop buildup near the border with Ukraine and a hunger strike by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny protesting a lack of adequate medical treatment in prison. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
In a hall packed with people without face masks, the President highlighted problems triggered by the coronavirus. Infrastructure was high on the agenda, and Putin made clear that it is time to build the Northern Latitudinal Passage.

The President’s annual speech to the Legislative Assembly gathered several hundred of Russia’s most prominent politicians, state officials and public figures in the downtown Manezh Hall.

Like always, the speech touched on a major variety of issues, but social problems, healthcare, the coronavirus and the economy were high on the agenda.

According to Putin, the coronavirus has hit hard on Russia, but the country has still coped better than most other countries. He also underlined that the economy now is in dire need for growth and outlined several major infrastructure projects that are to prepare the ground for regional revitalization.

West encircling Russia, Putin says

Putin also lashed out against the West, saying that attempts are made to encircle and isolate Russia. However, repressive behavior against Russia will fail, Putin stressed, and warned against aggression.

“They will regret like they have never regretted before,” he said. He also warned against “crossing the red lines.”

“They better not cross the red line. And where the red lines go, we will ourselves decide in each specific case,” he explained.

The President called for new grand infrastructure development in the regions and specifically mentioned the Northern Latitudinal Passage project in the Yamal-Nenets region.

“This project has been under elaboration for a long time. Now is the time for its launch,” Putin underlined.

Arctic railway links

The Northern Latitudinal Passage includes the construction of several hundred kilometers of new railway across the wetlands and tundra of the far northern region.

The project will ultimately link two of Russia’s key Arctic railway lines, the Northern Line from Arkhangelsk and the line between Nadym and Tyumen. When finished, it will enable passengers and goods to go by train from Arkhangelsk and proceed through Labitnangy, the current last stop on the line, across the Ob Bay and all the way to Novy Urengoy and Surgut.

Included in the project is also a railway line between Bovanenkovo and Sabetta in the Yamal Peninsula. An extension could also be built to Dudinka, the port town on the Yenisey River.

The link to Sabetta was highlighted as one of the priorities in the Russian government’s recently presented Arctic Action Plan.

The project has a huge cost. Only the projected bridge across the Ob River is expected to cost 70 billion rubles.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s military launches scaled down annual Arctic exercise, Radio Canada International

Finland: Finnish Defence Minister tells party leaders shrinking fighter fleet would be “irresponsible”, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland talks Arctic, Trump’s ditching of climate accord, with U.S. Secretary of State, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway strengthens its Arctic military in new defense plan as security concerns grow in the region, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia’s Northern Fleet kicks off major exercise, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Arctic Sweden to welcome thousands of international troops for Northern Wind exercise, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. Navy to build airport infrastructure in North Norway to meet upped Russian submarine presence, The Independent Barents Observer

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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