Putin acknowledges a "difficult" 2016 in New Year's greeting

It has been a frosty year for Russian-US relations

Vladimir Putin has described 2016 as "difficult" in his traditional New Year greeting.

In a speech shown on state television, the Russian president congratulated his country on its accomplishments and said the challenges faced by Russians had "united us".

He added: "The main thing is: we believe in ourselves, in our abilities, in our country.

"We are working, working successfully and are accomplishing a lot.

"We have a huge, unique and beautiful country", he said, adding his hope that next year would bring "peace and prosperity to our great motherland Russia".

In 2016, Russia expanded its widely criticised military presence in Syria and brokered a fragile ceasefire in that country in co-operation with Turkey and without the help of the US.

During the year, Russia's relationship with Washington became frostier, culminating in Thursday's announcement by the US that it would expel 35 Russian diplomats.

The US action was in retaliation for what it said were Russian cyberattacks on political groups during the 2016 election campaign.

Mr Putin surprised many by saying he would not immediately respond to the US move with an expulsion of US diplomats from Moscow but would see how the situation developed after Mr Trump's inauguration, a move praised by the President-elect.

Russia also saw tragedy during the year, with its ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, murdered in Ankara by an off-duty Turkish police officer just days before Christmas.

On Christmas Day, a Russian military plane crashed into the Black Sea, killing all 92 on board, including dozens of singers from the country's famous military choir.