Putin Skips Annual News Conference as His War in Ukraine Falters

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(Bloomberg) — President Vladimir Putin is dropping his annual marathon press conference for the first time in a decade, as his forces continue to stumble in their war in Ukraine.

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“There won’t be one before New Year,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Monday, without explanation, in response to a question about the event. The president would try to “find an opportunity” instead to talk to journalists, Peskov said.

Putin has held the end-of-year news conference each December since he returned to the presidency in 2012, drawing hundreds of journalists from across Russia and representatives of foreign media to Moscow for the televised live event that usually ran for well in excess of three hours.

He’s avoiding it this year amid repeated retreats by Russian forces in his nearly 10-month-long war in Ukraine and tensions over the September call-up of 300,000 conscripts in Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II.

The Kremlin also hasn’t announced a date yet for Putin’s annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly of lawmakers and senior officials, and he’s given no sign that he intends to hold his “Direct Line” phone-in with Russians, traditionally a carefully-controlled platform for ordinary voters to air grievances to the president. The phone-in has been a fixture of Putin’s presidency since 2001.

Putin also held his annual press conference during his first period as president, usually in February, until 2008 when he installed Dmitry Medvedev as his successor for four years to comply with a constitutional term limit.

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