Flee the Press
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold his usual year-end news conference in December for the first time in at least a decade, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. He did not give a reason but reminded reporters that Putin "regularly speaks to the press, including on foreign visits," though those interactions are always with the Kremlin press corps.
Putin's wide-ranging, often festive December press conference, which typically lasts four hours or longer, "has been one of the few times during the year when reporters outside the Kremlin pool, including foreign correspondents, get the chance to directly question Mr. Putin — if they are called on," The New York Times reports.
"Although questions are almost certainly usually vetted in advance, the cancelation is likely due to increasing concerns about the prevalence of anti-war feeling in Russia," Britain's Ministry of Defense said early Tuesday. "Kremlin officials are almost certainly extremely sensitive about the possibility that any event attended by Putin could be hijacked by unsanctioned discussion about the 'special military operation'" in Ukraine.
"Putin has tried to present life in Russia as business as usual for most people, an image that has become harder to maintain" as war losses mount, anger over a mismanaged draft rises, and invasion-linked sanctions bite, the Times adds. Ukraine's military said Monday that Russia has lost nearly 95,000 troops since invading in February, and Britain's Ministry of Defense said Ukraine has recaptured more than half the territory Russia took since its Feb. 24 invasion. These battlefield setbacks are almost never mentioned in Russian state media.
"Putin, who turned 70 in November, is also at the center of intense speculation over his health," Politico reports. He "was seen swaying on camera in a public appearance earlier this week," though "aides have repeatedly denied that he is unwell." Putin allies in state media suggested Putin has more important things to do this year than discuss minor, mundane, routine issues. Peskov left open the possibility that Putin would hold court in the new year.
Putin has held this press conference every December since 2001, with a pause in 2005 and when he was prime minister from 2008 to 2012.