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Live Blog: Putin's Annual Press Conference

The Russian president fields selected questions on domestic and international affairs, with the country showing signs it might pull out of recession in 2017 and Russia's military supporting Assad in Syria and separatists in eastern Ukraine.


Russian President Vladimir Putin's 12th annual press conference was staged in front of around 1,500 selected journalists in Moscow, many of whom wave signs to try to get their questions addressed.

Highlights

-- At his press conference with selected journalists on December 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin downplayed U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's tweet on nuclear capabilities as "nothing new" but warned of the threat of a new arms race with the United States if any side develops antimissile systems.

-- Putin also paraphrased Trump on the election-hacking question, saying, "How would we know it was Russia ...[and not] someone lying on a sofa who did it?"

-- He vowed that the assassination this week of Russia's ambassador to Ankara, Andrei Karlov, would not damage Russia-Turkey ties.

-- Putin downplayed the possibility of an early Russian presidential election in 2017, saying, "It is possible, but inexpedient." He left open whether he would run for a fourth term.

-- Putin cited "reasons for optimism" on Russia's economy and an "overall positive dynamic" based on 0.6 percent economic contraction in 2016.

-- On doping in sports, Putin called it "unthinkable" that Russia had any state program for doping (despite mounting evidence in multiple reports from international athletic groups, including another damning announcement today).

* NOTE: Times are stated according to local time in Moscow (GMT/UTC +3)

15:38 23.12.2016

The Power Vertical's Brian Whitmore observes:

We're more than 3 1/2 hours in and, in many ways, Putin's press conference has been notable for what has been absent. There haven't been the colorful language and trademark locker-room references to private body parts we've come to expect. There hasn't been a "surprise" tough and provocative question from an "unexpected" opposition journalist. There hasn't been a question (yet) about Aleksei Navalny's presidential bid, which is surprising given State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin's comments this week that the opposition leader was ineligible to run.

Putin punted on the 2018 question (essentially "I'll look at the situation and make a decision"). He stuck to his standard (and largely false) talking points on the conflict with the West ("They started it") and on Ukraine and the Euromaidan ("It was a Western-backed coup"). In a somewhat surprising comment, he said he favored Ukrainians being able to travel visa-free. He gave his obligatory diatribe against U.S. plans for missile defense, but said that Donald Trump's plans for a military build-up don't bother him. If Putin's criticism of the United States was mostly muted as he waits in hopes of a friendlier Trump administration, he missed no opportunity to criticize, poke, and troll the U.S. Democratic Party.

So far, a pretty pro forma and uneventful performance.

15:37 23.12.2016

Someone is holding a sign with Putin’s image and words “Ask me about dictatorship.”

15:35 23.12.2016

Next question is about the alcohol poisoning deaths in Irkutsk. Reporter says his region is at the forefront of the fight against illegal alcohol. Notes that it is a serious problem across Siberia and the Far East. Asks whether the government should do more to restrict industrial spirits and to prevent "the alcoholization of the population."

15:34 23.12.2016

“Putin called on officials to be more modest.”

15:33 23.12.2016

Next question is about tax policy and whether business taxes will be increased. Putin repeats that the government has decided not to increase business taxes and that a "whole selection" of new tax incentives are being introduced for business, especially small businesses. Mentions tax breaks for the agricultural sector, for high tech. Says these policies will continue for at least four years.

15:33 23.12.2016
15:30 23.12.2016

Next question is about Rosneft head Igor Sechin and his frequent lawsuits against the media. Reporter asks whether Putin thinks it is good that Sechin always wins and insists on having the stories destroyed. Putin says that Sechin has a right to protect his business reputation. Says he won't interfere with court decisions.

15:29 23.12.2016
15:27 23.12.2016

The press conference is going on for three and a half hours.

15:27 23.12.2016

Next question is about the international situation -- terrorism, migrant crisis, new president in the U.S. -- and how will this affect relations between Russia and China. Putin says the two countries have "more than a strategic partnership." China is Russia's largest trading partner. Lauds cooperation in aviation, energy, space. Putin notes the two countries have common views on many international questions. Says Moscow is counting on continued good relations.

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