Putin wishes Russians 'changes for the better' in 2018

Moscow (AFP) –


Russia's President Vladimir Putin wished his compatriots "changes for the better" in 2018 in his traditional televised New Year's address Sunday.

"Let the New Year bring changes for the better in the life of every person and every family," Putin told Russians in a speech aired by state television and reported by Russian agencies.

Residents of the country's most easternly region of Kamchatka will be the first to hear the speech that is shown a few minutes before midnight in each of Russia's eleven time zones.

The Russian leader addressed "special wishes" to "all of those who are working now, fulfilling their military or professional duty," agencies reported.

He also thanked Russians for "believing in themselves and in our country."

He also wished "peace and prosperity to our great Russia, the dear and only one."

Putin has been in power since 1999 and seeks a historic fourth presidential term in March 2018 elections. He is widely expected to win the vote that would extend his rule until 2024 and make him the longest serving Russian leader since dictator Joseph Stalin.

Russia will also host 2018's football World Cup, one of the world's largest sporting events.