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Putin's new year message to Obama

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said in a new year's message to US President Barack Obama that Moscow is looking for equality in bilateral relations next year.

The Kremlin published several dozen messages addressed to heads of states and international organisations such as the Olympic Committee and Fifa.

Mr Putin reminded Mr Obama of the upcoming 70th anniversary of the allied victory in the Second World War and said that it should serve as a reminder of "the responsibility that Russia and the United States bear for maintaining peace and international stability".

Moscow is anxious for the relations to advance but only as long as there is "equality and mutual respect".

Conspicuously absent from the list of the recipients of new year messages was Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Meanwhile, Mr Putin used his new year's speech to the nation to hail Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.

He said Crimea's "return home" will "forever remain a landmark in the national history".

The comments in his prepared annual address had been broadcast already in Russia's far eastern regions, where the holiday was celebrated hours ahead of Moscow, given the time difference.

After Ukraine's former Russia-friendly president was driven from power, Moscow sent troops to overtake Crimea, home to a Russian naval base.

Those forces blocked Ukrainian military garrisons and set the stage for a hastily called referendum on Crimea joining Russia, which Ukraine and the West rejected.

The West has since introduced sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea and Moscow's support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

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