Russian President Rings in the New Year

President Dmitry Medvedev assured Russians on New Year's Eve that the government would help them cope with whatever difficulties they face in 2009 as the country suffers in the global economic storm.

Medvedev's prerecorded address was first televised as the clock struck midnight in Russia's far eastern corner. It was being shown repeatedly across the country as the New Year arrived in each of Russia's 11 time zones.

The president acknowledged that Russia had gone through trying times in 2008, when the global financial crisis hit the country hard, but he said Russians had shown "confidence and dignity" in dealing with the challenges.

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Medvedev, standing on a bridge over the Moscow River with the Kremlin lit up in the night sky behind him, warned his countrymen that the coming year would not be easy but said the government would be there to protect them.

"I am sure that no matter what difficulties we face, we will cope with them," he said. "And the government will do everything necessary to achieve this."

The president's address is part of the holiday tradition in Russia, where New Year's Eve is the most important holiday of the year. Most families sit down at the table as the president begins to speak, and his speech is timed to finish as the clock strikes midnight.