Ten months into Russia’s stuttering invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin announced on Monday that President Vladimir Putin will not attend his customary televised year-end news conference this month.
A regular on Putin’s calendar, the event allows him to demonstrate his grasp of the subject and his endurance as he stands alone on a stage in a big auditorium for a question-and-answer session with reporters that can run for 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.
In addition, “Direct Line with Vladimir Putin,” a massive annual televised call-in with the general people, was last conducted in June 2021.
On December 23, nearly exactly two months prior to the start of the invasion, the Kremlin denied Ukrainian and American charges that the massing of tens of thousands of Russian troops along the border foreshadowed an invasion.
Putin said during the event that while Russia wanted to avoid war with Ukraine and the West, it needed an “immediate” response to its demands for security guarantees from the United States and its allies.