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Putin Skips An Annual News Conference

After a series of military setbacks in his war in Ukraine, with Russia’s casualties mounting and its economy faltering under sanctions, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, skipped an annual news conference in which he typically makes a somewhat choreographed show of openness to questioning on an array of topics. His spokesman did not give a reason. Putin first held the year-end news conference, which has often stretched to four hours or more, in 2001, two years into his presidency. The last time he opted out of the event as president was in 2005. It is among the few occasions in the year when reporters outside the Kremlin pool, including foreign correspondents, may question Putin — if they are called on. Few journalists in Russia are not subservient to the Kremlin, and this year the government criminalized criticism of the war or the military. But it would still have been possible, and deeply undesirable for Putin, for a reporter to ask the Russian leader, live on national television, embarrassing questions about some of the setbacks in Ukraine. Mikhail Vinogradov, a political scientist who heads the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation, said the move would contribute to a general sense of stagnation in the country. Even though a lot is happening, he said, calling off the event captures the feeling that “the situation” is “on pause.” Months into the war in Ukraine, European nations like Norway have grown wary that a desperate Kremlin is deepening its attempts at spying, sabotage and infiltration. But not all of the incidents can be traced with certainty to Russia, and real concern has at times become hard to separate from widening paranoia.

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