Putin cancels annual marathon year-end TV news conference

Sputnik/Sergei Bobylyov/Pool via REUTERS
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference following the Eurasian Economic Union summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, December 9, 2022.

President Vladimir Putin will not hold his traditional televised year-end news conference this month, the Kremlin said on Monday, 10 months into Russia’s stuttering invasion of Ukraine.

The event is a staple of Putin’s calendar, giving him the chance to showcase his command of issues and his stamina as he sits alone on a stage in a large auditorium for a question-and-answer session with reporters that can last more than four hours.

But the war, which began on Feb. 24, has not gone well for Putin. His forces were beaten back from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early on, and have suffered major battlefield setbacks in the east and south of Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked in a call with reporters whether a date had been set for this year’s “big news conference,” and replied: “No, there won’t be one before the new year.”

He said Putin would find other ways to communicate with journalists, noting that he had held other news conferences, including on his trips abroad.

Last Friday, Putin answered questions from reporters during a visit to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

Peskov said the Kremlin would advise later on a date for another annual set piece, Putin’s annual speech to both houses of Russia’s parliament, similar to the U.S. president’s annual State of the Union address.

Putin also traditionally holds a mammoth televised call-in every year with members of the public, called “Direct Line with Vladimir Putin,” which was last held in June 2021.

Last year’syear-end news conference took place on Dec. 23, almost exactly two months before the invasion began, as the Kremlin was denying Ukrainian and U.S. accusations that tens of thousands of Russian troops massing near the border presaged an invasion.

Putin used the occasion to say Russia wanted to avoid conflict with Ukraine and the West, but needed an “immediate” response from the United States and its allies to its demands for security guarantees.