AP

Cornered in Ukraine, Putin ditches annual news conference

Dec 12, 2022, 12:27 PM | Updated: Dec 13, 2022, 6:04 am

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a ceremony to launch new and renovated transport inf...

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a ceremony to launch new and renovated transport infrastructure via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

(Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

President Vladimir Putin has ditched his annual marathon news conference following a series of battlefield setbacks in Ukraine — a tacit acknowledgment that the Russian leader’s war has gone badly wrong.

Putin typically uses the year-end ritual to polish his image, answering a wide range of questions on domestic and foreign policy to demonstrate his grip on details and give the semblance of openness even though the event is tightly stage-managed.

But this year, with his troops on the back foot in Ukraine, it could be impossible to avoid uncomfortable questions about the Russian military’s blunders even at a highly choreographed event. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Monday that Putin wouldn’t hold the news conference this month without explaining why.

“Although questions are almost certainly usually vetted in advance, the cancellation is likely due to increasing concerns about the prevalence of anti-war feeling in Russia,” the U.K. Defense Ministry wrote in a commentary on Twitter.

“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,'” it said, using Moscow’s term for the war.

Some of his previous performances lasted for more than 4 1/2 hours, during which he has sometimes faced some pointed questions, but used them to mock the West or denigrate his domestic opponents.

Putin also has canceled another annual fixture this year, a televised call-in show in which he takes questions from the public to nurture his father-of-the-nation image.

And he has so far failed to deliver the annual televised state-of-the-nation address to parliament, a constitutional obligation. No date has been set for Putin’s address.

The Kremlin has muzzled any criticism of its invasion of Ukraine from the liberal anti-war camp, shutting independent media outlets and criminalizing the spread of any information that differs from the official view — including calling the campaign a war. But it has faced an increasingly vocal criticism from Russian hardliners, who have denounced the president as weak and indecisive and called for ramping up strikes on Ukraine.

Political analyst Abbas Gallyamov said in a video commentary that the decision not to hold the news conference was likely because Putin “has nothing to say from the point of view of strategy.”

Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, claiming Moscow was forced to “demilitarize” the country in the face of NATO’s refusal to offer Russia guarantees that Ukraine wouldn’t be invited to join the alliance. Ukraine and much of the world denounced the Russian attack on its neighbor as an unprovoked act of aggression.

Putin and his officials hoped to rout the Ukrainian military in a few days, but a fierce Ukrainian resistance — bolstered by Western weapons — quickly derailed those plans. After a botched attempt to quickly capture the Ukrainian capital, the Russian troops pulled back from areas around Kyiv in March.

In September, Ukraine won back large swaths of land in the northeastern Kharkiv region, and last month it reclaimed control of the strategic southern port city of Kherson.

A mobilization of 300,000 reservists that Putin ordered in September so far has failed to reverse battlefield fortunes for Russia. The mobilization order has prompted hundreds of thousands of Russians to flee abroad to avoid recruitment, and those who have been called up reported glaring shortages of key equipment and supplies.

In a rare acknowledgement last week that the war in Ukraine is taking longer than he anticipated, Putin acknowledged that wrapping up the campaign could be a “lengthy process.” At the same time, he continued to claim that it was going according to plan and would achieve its goals.

Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political expert, noted that Putin’s decision to ditch the news conference and his failure so far to deliver the state-of-the-nation address reflected his hesitancy about the future course of action.

“Shall we forge ahead and defeat the enemy?” he wrote, reflecting hardliners’ calls for ramping up missile strikes on Ukraine. “Or on the contrary, shall we prepare for a difficult but necessary compromise?”

___

Follow AP war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

1 day ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

3 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

4 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

4 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

5 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

6 days ago

Cornered in Ukraine, Putin ditches annual news conference