Over 600 soldiers and officers from all branches of the Russian Armed Forces have been invited to attend the event.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Comrade officers, friends,
I am honoured to welcome you to the Kremlin’s St George Hall, the hall of Russian military glory to which you have added your own bright and victorious page.
Today we are celebrating you as true defenders of Russia. You did your duty excellently. You fulfilled the most difficult tasks in Syria and have returned home to your relatives and loved ones victorious. As your Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I thank you and all your comrades-in-arms for your professionalism and selflessness and for your commitment to your military duty and your oath.
But my warmest words go to the female military personnel who endured combat hardships alongside their comrades at the forefront of hostilities. Thank you very much.
Over 48,000 Russian soldiers and officers took part in the operations in Syria in a little over two years. They came from nearly all military fields: Air Force and Navy, special units and military police, mine clearing units, reconnaissance, communications, special medical and logistics services, military command and military advisers. Each of you acted valiantly and resolutely, as the sons and daughters of our great Homeland, the soldiers of our Army and Navy should, considering their enduring and heroic traditions of valour, honour and dignity.
You fought for Russia’s interests, for Russia, for your home, for the right and just cause. Therefore, our entire nation was behind you. I am sure that you felt this civil solidarity and patriotism, and this unity between the army and the people empowered you. The public followed the daily developments and reports from Syria. Our people believed in you. They are proud of you and our Armed Forces. They felt the pain of every grievous loss sincerely, as their own.
We will always remember your comrades who were killed in the line of duty. They perished defending Russia. Their names will be eternalised in the personnel lists of their units. Their heroic deeds will serve as examples to the younger generation of officers and soldiers. We will always support and take care of their families, parents, children and loved ones. We will do everything for this.
Now let us honour their memory.
(A minute of silence)
The memory of our heroes will strengthen our determination in the fight against international terrorism as well as other threats to our country.
As it has happened many times in history, Russia made a crucial, decisive input to the defeat of the criminal forces that challenged the entire civilisation, to the destruction of the terrorist army, the barbaric dictatorship that brought death and devastation, erased hospitals, schools, mosques, churches, historical and cultural monuments from the face of the earth, and planned to turn Syria and its neighbours into a launching ground for global aggression targeting our country. Should the terrorists have won in Syria, expanded their ranks with new recruits, accessed money, oil sources and modern weapons they would have certainly continued their global attack with new and advanced forces.
They received a deserved punishment for their crimes. Their equipment, headquarters, infrastructure and thousands of militants were destroyed.
As you know, a terrorist attack was perpetrated in St Petersburg yesterday, and the Federal Security Service has recently thwarted another terrorist attack. And what would happen if hundreds and thousands of people whom I have just mentioned came back here well trained and armed?
By the way, I instructed the Director of the Federal Security Service yesterday to act within the bounds of the law while dealing with these thugs and arresting them. However, if the lives and health of our operatives and officers are at risk, the FSB must act resolutely, take no prisoners and eliminate terrorists on the spot.
The Russian Army and Navy have displayed their improved capability in full measure, and they have successfully used up-to-date weapons and equipment. Aerospace Forces pilots flew 34,000 sorties and launched 166 high-precision strikes against terrorist facilities. The Syrian Army has liberated the entire country and over 1,000 population centres with the key support of Russia’s Aerospace Forces and Navy.
Your heroism and professional actions have made it possible to preserve Syria’s statehood, to stop mass murders, executions and terror against civilians, have made it possible to launch a political settlement of the conflict in that country, to restore normal life and to return tens of thousands of refugees.
Syrian citizens will remember with gratitude the courage of Russian service personnel who sometimes delivered food, medications and essentials under fire. They will remember with gratitude the peacekeeping efforts of Russian officers who worked at the Centre for the Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides to stop bloodshed and to give people hope.
You have performed all the missions that were assigned to you. Your military units have returned back to the places of their permanent deployment in Russia. In Syria, two Russian bases – an air base in Khmeimim and a naval facility in the port of Tartus – will remain and operate on a permanent basis. This is an important factor in defending our national interests as well as ensuring Russia’s security in one of the key, strategic sectors.
We intend to continue improving the Armed Forces and their combat and technical capability, to create a new-generation army, and to develop a system of special guarantees for service personnel, their family members, and military pensioners. These are our absolute priorities, because the Armed Forces are the basis of Russia’s independence and security, which means its irreversible, sustainable development and progress.
In this large-scale and responsible work to promote military organisation, strengthen the army and the navy, and address other large-scale tasks facing our country, I certainly count on you, merited and still very young veterans of the Syrian operation, on the patriotism, willpower, experience and military conditioning of all our officers and men.
I wish you every success in your careers. Let me congratulate you on returning home. I am happy to have this opportunity to present state decorations to you.
Colonel General Sergei Surovikin: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces,
Permit me to express my gratitude for your appreciation of my military service and the high decoration I have been awarded today. This obliges me to many things, such as to continue to serve Russia selflessly to my last breath. I believe that this state decoration has been awarded to me not just for the services I have done personally, but primarily for the services done by my subordinates and comrades-in-arms, as well as for the mastery of my commanders and my teachers, which they shared with me during my student years as well as my military service.
While doing our combat duty in Syria, we never forgot for a second that we were protecting Russia and that we must do this to the best of our ability, as we had pledged to do in our military oath when entering military service, as well as out of the deep understanding of our responsibility to the country for eliminating the global terrorist threat.
Speaking on behalf of all service personnel, I thank you, Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, for your high appreciation of our military operation in Syria, for your efforts to strengthen peace, Russia and the army, as well as for your concern for service personnel.
We are ready to fulfil any task you will give us. Please, rest assured that the Aerospace Forces will ensure the inviolability of Russia’s borders and will protect national interests in the air as well as in space.
Allow me to wish you and all citizens of Russia a happy New Year and to wish you all the very best, happiness and prosperity.
Major Maxim Makolkin: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,
Let me express my sincere gratitude to you for this high state decoration.
Military pilots are proud of being the ones whom you entrusted to be the main attack power of the Russian forces in Syria. We received a unique opportunity to test our weapons and hone our piloting skills in combat conditions. The high potential of our aviation equipment, its reliability as well as the professionalism of our aircrews enabled us to feel our indisputable superiority in the sky.
On seeing our Western coalition partners in the air, we always tailed them, as pilots say, which means a victory in real combat.
Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,
Let me assure you that Russia’s military pilots are always ready to defend our Motherland, ensure its stability and protect its interests in any region of the world.
Senior Sergeant Tatyana Kovaleva: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,
Let me express sincere words of gratitude to you for the opportunity to represent here, in the heart of Russia, at the Moscow Kremlin, the medical specialists who were performing their mission in the Syrian Arab Republic.
It is the greatest honour for me today to receive a state decoration from you personally, from the President of our country and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. I share this very high assessment of my work with my comrades-in-arms, my glorious Airborne Troops and Medical Specialists Corps of the Russian Army.
While in Syria, we acted in accordance with our Russian traditions, in Russian style: protecting the Syrian people, showing mercy and compassion through real deeds and rendering comprehensive assistance and support to the population of that long-suffering country. Russian military medics, often at the risk of their lives, provided medical aid to hundreds of people, delivered medications to remote villages, trained and consulted our Syrian colleagues and helped restore the war-embattled medical system. And all the time, we remembered that we represent Russia and this helped us do our job.
Mr President, let me, on behalf of all medical specialists, thank you for the high assessment of our work and assure you that we faithfully serve and will continue to serve our Fatherland, great Russia led by our President.
Vladimir Putin: Comrade officers, friends,
I would like to once again congratulate the recipients of the state decorations, and everyone attending this ceremony, as well as the 48,000 service personnel who took part in the Syrian operation.
You know and see better than anyone else that our armed forces have changed radically over the past two years, because our people have proved equal to the task, which is the most important thing, as well as because they have seen how our military equipment works, how command and logistics elements work, and how modern our Armed Forces have become. The entire world has seen this as well, but the most important thing is that our people have seen it. This is very important, because people must feel protected; they must feel that their security is reliably guaranteed.
I would also like to express my gratitude to the defence industry, whose personnel often worked side by side with you, doing their duty by adjusting the latest military equipment to combat duty and turning this modern equipment into a powerful force.
As I have told you, we will continue to modernise our Armed Forces, the Navy and the Army. I pin my hopes on you and those like you. This means that I pin my hopes on the entire Army and Navy, which is made up of such people as you.
I also want to extend my gratitude to your families and loved ones, who worried about you, and to thank them for their understanding and support.
Thank you, and a happy New Year!