The Kremlin hasn’t canceled Christmas, but Russian President Vladimir Putin willl skip his annual year-end press conference for the first time since 2013.
Putin probably has nothing good to say about the situation in Ukraine, the sanctions that Russia is enduring, and the state of Russia’s economy – so it appears he will say nothing at all.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t comment on the reasons why the speech was canceled. Still, it almost certainly comes down to Putin not wanting to face unpleasant questions about Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Managing the Narrative
The annual year-end news conference is typically used to polish Putin’s image. It is a tightly run, carefully choreographed spectacle that can last for hours as the Russian leader discusses a range of domestic and foreign policy issues.
This year, however, Putin wanted to make sure there are no surprises.
“The press conference has become a significant fixture in Putin’s calendar of public engagement and has frequently been used as an opportunity to demonstrate the supposed integrity of Putin,” the UK Ministry of Defense noted in a string of posts on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
“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. 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.'”
This is not the first press event involving Putin to be canceled this year.
In June, the Kremlin also postponed his annual televised marathon phone-in with members of the public – and did not set a new date for it.
The question now is whether the Kremlin leader will still hold the annual State of the Union speech to parliament by the end of the year, as required by Russia’s Constitution. It is possible that could also be “rescheduled” for another day.
Others Are Speaking
Even as Russia has clamped down on the press in recent months, there are those who are willing to speak up. Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yan Rachinsky blasted Putin’s “insane and criminal” war on Ukraine during his acceptance speech in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Saturday, CNN reported.
Rachinsky, who works with Russia’s human rights organization Memorial, also said that resistance to Russia is labeled as “fascism” under Putin. The group, which is one of Russia’s most well-known and respected human rights organizations, worked to expose the abuses and atrocities of the Stalinist era for more than three decades until it was ordered to close by the country’s Supreme Court last year.
It was also just last week that Ilya Yashin, one of the few Kremlin opposition figures to remain in Russia, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison after being convicted on charges stemming from his criticism of the war.
Yashin had been charged with spreading false information about the military — a new offense added to the country’s criminal law after Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February.
International human rights groups have denounced the sentence as a mockery of justice and called for Yashin’s immediate release.
“With that hysterical sentence, the authorities want to scare us all but it effectively shows their weakness,” Yashin said in a statement through his lawyers after the judge passed the sentence. “Only the weak want to shut everyone’s mouth and eradicate any dissent.”
A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.