Thursday, May 23, 2024

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is holding his year-end news conference on Thursday, resuming an annual tradition at a critical moment for the war his forces are waging in Ukraine.

The December news conference has traditionally been a wide-ranging marathon that offers reporters a rare — albeit stage-managed — chance to pose potentially tricky questions. Mr. Putin finds himself in much better shape than a year earlier, when he skipped the ritual amid setbacks in Ukraine.

There were about 600 journalists, including about a dozen Western correspondents, on hand in Gostiny Dvor, a large event space just one block away from Moscow’s Red Square. Mr. Putin was also taking called-in questions from people across Russia.

Here’s a look at the topics Mr. Putin is addressing and is likely to be asked about.

Mr. Putin is nearing the third year of his invasion of Ukraine in a position of relative strength, and his responses on Thursday underscored that point. The Russian leader said that his goals in Ukraine had not changed — the “demilitarization” and “denazification” of the country. He reiterated that he was open to peace talks, but offered no hint of a willingness to compromise.

“If they don’t want to talk, then we are forced to take other measures, including military ones,” Mr. Putin said, when asked by one of the news conference’s moderators when the war will end. And he added that he saw no need for another military draft because, he claimed, some 500,000 people had signed up for military service voluntarily. “Why do we need mobilization?” Mr. Putin said. “Today, there’s no need for it.”

Bolstered by dense defenses, Russian forces have fended off Ukraine’s counteroffensive this year and are now attacking in several areas along the front line. Russia’s military production is ramping up, and the army — despite very high casualties — has been able to regain its footing without resorting to a new wave of mobilization. And the deadlock over military aid for Ukraine in the U.S. Congress has made Mr. Putin’s long-term bet that his country will outlast adversaries appear more realistic.

The news conference provided Mr. Putin with foils for one of his favorite themes: presenting his foreign adversaries as hypocritical and decadent.

The outbreak of the war with Hamas has diverted international attention from Ukraine. Amid mounting calls for a cease-fire in Gaza as the death toll from Israel’s bombardment of the enclave climbs, Mr. Putin sought to differentiate between the actions of the Russian and Israeli militaries. It’s a claim he has been leveraging to try to discredit the West and to gain sympathy around the world.

“Look at the special military operation” — in Ukraine — “and look at what’s happening in Gaza, and feel the difference,” Mr. Putin said, when asked about Gaza by a Turkish journalist. “Nothing of the sort is happening in Ukraine.” (In fact, Russia’s invasion has caused massive civilian casualties, including thousands in the city of Mariupol.)

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