Russian officials expressed optimism that Putin will find an opportunity to field questions from journalists and did not give a reason for breaching the tradition. Additionally, Putin will not host a New Year celebration, a Russian spokesperson said.
“As for the big press conference, yes, it won’t happen before the New Year, but we hope that the president will still find an opportunity to talk with [journalists], as he does regularly, including during foreign [visits],” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, per a translation of Russian state media Tass.
Although Peskov did not divulge a reason for nixing the presser, sources suggested that the war in neighboring Ukraine was a major factor in the decision, Russian media RBC reported. The press conference has been hosted annually in December since 2012.
During last year’s press conference, Putin was pressed about tensions with Ukraine and began laying out justifications for the forthcoming invasion as Russian forces amassed on the border.
“This is not our choice, we do not want this,” Putin declared at that presser, per Reuters. “We have to think about ensuring our security prospects not just for today and next week but for the near future.”
Some 500 journalists, including some foreign reporters, were invited to partake in last year’s event, which had been pared down due to COVID-19 and lasted several hours.
Putin unleashed his military power on Ukraine last February and was expected to steamroll into Kyiv within a matter of weeks. Ten months later, Kyiv is still standing, and Russia is estimated to have suffered heavy casualties. Meanwhile, the 70-year-old Russian leader has been subject to speculation about his health.
Last week, Russia engaged in a prisoner swap with the United States in which they traded WNBA star Brittney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.” Tensions between the two countries have deteriorated to post-Cold War lows.