Putin cancels annual briefing as suspicions grow he’s running from war

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Putin cancels annual briefing as suspicions grow he's running from war

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold his annual year-end press conference for the first time in a decade, prompting speculation that the Russian leader is sick or running scared from answering questions about Ukraine as the war enters its 10th month.

“As for the big press conference, yes, it won’t happen before the New Year,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday.

“But we hope that the president will still find an opportunity to talk with [journalists], as he regularly does, including during foreign [visits],” Peskov added.

While Peskov gave no reason behind the move, the war in Ukraine and Russian troops having to make repeated retreats in recent weeks were likely both factors in choosing to break the tradition.

The move also draws attention to suspicions that Putin’s health is on the decline, especially following reports last week that he fell down the stairs and soiled himself.

Vladimir Putin.
There have been suspicions that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s health is declining.

Putin address in 2020.
Putin addresses his annual press conference via video from the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence on December 17, 2020.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his annual press conference in Moscow on December 20, 2018.
Putin holds his annual press conference in Moscow on December 20, 2018.

The marathon end-of-year press conference — broadcasted live on TV and often lasting upwards of four hours — allows the Russian leader to polish his public image all while answering questions from 500-plus journalists.

Putin’s spokesperson also indicated that a press conference may take place in the New Year, but did not give a specific date or format for the event.

The president had also postponed his annual live Direct Line question and answer session with ordinary Russian citizens over apparent concerns he would face difficult questions about the war and his chaotic call to mobilize 300,000 conscripts in September.

A local resident leaves his home after Russian shelling destroyed an apartment building in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has entered its 10th month.
AP

Putin will also not be hosting a New Year celebration, Peskov said.

There has been significant speculation about the Russian strongman’s health amid rumors he is suffering from cancer affecting his stomach and bowels as well as a worsening case of Parkinson’s disease. The Kremlin has denied that Putin is struggling with any illnesses.

Putin — who has been in power since 2000 — has held an annual press conference in December for about a decade. In 2019, a record of 1,895 journalists were accredited.

With Post wires

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