Moscow: President Vladimir Putin thanked Russians for defending national interests in what he described as an historic year that saw Crimea annexed from Ukraine and the "best ever" Winter Olympic Games.
In a New Year`s Eve message usually aired at midnight, which has already been shown to Russians in the Far East, Putin said that love for the motherland was what ensured that the Crimean peninsula joined Russia in March after a controversial referendum.
"It fully revealed itself in the brotherly support of the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol when they firmly decided to go back home," Putin said.
"This event will forever remain a most important milestone in our history."
Putin admitted earlier this year that Russian soldiers were deployed in Crimea during the March referendum, when residents voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.
These events fuelled Western sanctions against Moscow and were followed by the ongoing bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine.
"As we review the passing year, I would like to sincerely thank you for unity and solidarity, for the deep feelings of truth, honour, justice and responsibility for the fate of your country, for the unfaltering readiness to defend Russia`s interests," Putin said.
He added that Russia staged the "best Winter Games in history" in Sochi, where the Olympic dream "came true" in February and Russian athletes took first place.
Putin made no mention of the unfolding economic crisis that is almost sure to sink Russia into recession in 2015, but said that the new year will "depend on each one of us," and their committment to Russia.