Putin says 2016 'difficult' but full of accomplishments

US President Barack Obama (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin before a meeting in Lima in November (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski) (AFP/File)

Moscow (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that the year 2016 was "difficult" but congratulated his country on its accomplishments and on believing in itself.

The past year "was difficult, but the difficulties we came across united us," Putin said in his traditional New Year's greeting, which is shown at midnight and has already aired in the far-eastern regions of the country.

"The main thing is: we believe in ourselves, in our abilities, in our country. We are working, working successfully, and are accomplishing a lot," Putin said, extending a special greeting to those serving and working far from home.

"We have a huge, unique and beautiful country," he said, voicing hope that the next year brings "peace and prosperity to our great motherland, Russia."

Moscow reemerged as powerful international player in 2016, notably deepening its military presence in Syria and brokering a ceasefire in the war-torn country with Turkey, Iran and the conspicuous absence of Washington.

The end of the year also saw the expulsion on Thursday of 35 Russian diplomats from the United States, which accuses Russian intelligence agencies of orchestrating cyber interference in the US election campaign that led to Donald Trump's victory.

The diplomats and their close relatives, a total of 96 Russians, are set to fly out of the United States on a special government flight, and will likely celebrate the New Year on the plane.