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Live Blog: Putin's Annual Press Conference 2020

For 4 1/2 hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin took questions from reporters on December 17 in his highly choreographed annual news conference. Our experienced team of Russia-watchers listened intently to it all, and tell us what was news, what was not, and provide perspective on the answers.


Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks via video call during his annual news conference in Moscow on December 17.

Highlights

-- Putin dismissed a fresh investigative report pointing to involvement by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in the poisoning of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny and alleged, without evidence, that the Russian opposition leader was working for U.S. intelligence.

-- Putin said that Russia, like other countries, faced problems in 2020 linked to COVID-19 but that the country handled the pandemic better than most. Russia, with a population of around 145 million, has the world’s fourth-highest number of confirmed cases at around 2.7 million and the 10th-highest number of COVID-19 deaths.

-- Putin forecast that Russian GDP would fall 3.6 percent in 2020, a figure he said was lower than the United States and European Union. He said the country’s financial system is “stable” and personal incomes are set to rise by 1.5 percent by the end of the year, although Russians might not feel that.

*Time stamps indicate local time in Moscow

17:12 17.12.2020

16:39 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Mike Eckel

After 4 hours and 30 minutes, Putin's news conference finishes.... and then he continues answering questions from a smaller group of TV cameras.

16:34 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Robert Coalson

Next question is from Izvestia. Says 2020 has been a very difficult year for everyone and asks what emotions Putin has felt most this year and what emotions does he wish for Russians in 2021.

Putin says every year has a lot of problems that have to be dealt with, and every year has a lot of joys and achievements. Admits that 2020 was difficult, but says that has been typical since the 1990s for Russia. The 1990s were much worse for Russia, Putin says.

Says that the foundations of Russian statehood, the economy, the capabilities of the state are much greater now than they were in the 1990s. Russia has many more instruments for action now than it did then and is working to achieve its strategic goals.

For New Year's wishes, Putin says he'll toast his family, friends, and colleagues. The main toast in Putin's family is always the same one, he says: "To Russia!"

Putin then announces a payment of 5,000 rubles (about $70) for every family with a child under the age of 7. He thanks everyone for listening for 4 1/2 hours and says it was a great pleasure for him.

The press conference ends.

16:24 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Robert Coalson

Peskov calls on a journalist from Iceland. Journalist praises Putin for holding such an event. Says it is great and democratic when a leader answers questions directly. Wishes Putin happy holidays.

The journalist stresses that people in the West love Russia, but only the BBC and other Western journalists make up things about Putin. Thanks everyone for the event and wishes Putin good health. Doesn't even ask a question.

16:22 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Steve Gutterman

16:21 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Robert Coalson

Next question is about support for small business during the pandemic. Asks whether next year small businesses can count on more support.

Putin notes that he already enumerated all the measures the government has already taken to support small businesses.

16:20 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Mike Eckel

Asked about the dwindling number of arms control treaties, Putin responds by 1) blaming the United States for pulling out of several of those treaties, and 2) listing several of the new Russian weapons that the military has rolled out in recent years.

(paraphrase)

We’re already in an arms race, it happened after the U.S. withdrew from the ABM treaty (which was nearly 20 years ago). We were forced to develop new weapons, like the hypersonic Avangard missile, as a result.

The last, and biggest, nuclear arms-control treaty capping the arsenals of the United States and Russia is New START, and it is set to expire in February.

Putin echoed previous statements that Moscow wants to extend the treaty, without preconditions, either for a year or until its stated end in 2026.

The United States has given mixed messages. President Donald Trump's administration, which pulled out of both the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty, and the Open Skies treaty, initially wanted to bring China into the treaty. But when that appeared unrealistic, it proposed prolonging New START, and also capping nonstrategic nuclear weapons, which Russia has a larger number of.

At this point, it appears the talks on hold, given the results of the U.S. presidential election.

President-elect Joe Biden has signaled a willingness to extend the treaty without conditions.

16:18 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Robert Coalson

Same journalist from Rostov Oblast asks Putin a detailed question about the firing of the editor of a local state-controlled newspaper.

Putin answers by saying the free press is essential for a healthy civil society. Putin says he'll talk with the governor about the situation.

16:17 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Steve Gutterman

"In the fifth hour of the press conference, a question about animal husbandry."

16:15 17.12.2020
16x9 Image Robert Coalson

Next question is from a journalist from Rostov Oblast. Notes that this year there was a record harvest, but people are upset because food prices are rising. Asks why this is happening? Asks whether Russia is exporting too much.

Putin notes that he already answered this question. Says that prices are rising in Russia because producers are exporting more because prices are higher abroad. Says this is particularly a problem for sugar and cooking oil. Says the government has mistakenly been de facto subsidizing exports.

Repeats that he expects this to be corrected within the coming weeks through increased export duties.

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