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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.

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.

-- 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)

10:33 23.12.2016

RFE/RL's Russian Service asked Muscovites what they'd say at today's press conference if they were Putin:

What Would You Say If You Were Putin?
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11:32 23.12.2016

We're recalling some of the more notable moments from Putin's 2015 big presser. They are legion.

They included this one about then-Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump: "He is a colorful, talented person, without any doubt."

Trump and others (including NBC debate host Matt Lauer) subsequently quoted Putin as having described him as "brilliant," adding, "It's always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his country and beyond."

The response elicited objections from some quarters, over the accuracy of the translation of the Russian word "яркий," and over the foundations upon which Putin's "respect" might be based.

11:34 23.12.2016

Putin also talked about Syria, where Russian warplanes had begun air strikes to combat "terrorists" and support President Bashar al-Assad less than three months earlier:

"It does not impose additional pressure on the budget. We just used a portion of the finances we had allocated for training and military maneuvers to conduct our Military-Space Forces' operations in Syria. It's hard to imagine any better training.... We can train for quite a long time there."

11:40 23.12.2016

Also in his 2015 big presser, Putin had this to say about the investigation into the slaying of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in February 2015:

"I believe that this crime must be fully investigated and [the culprits] punished."

One year later, a military trial of five men accused in the killing continues, but Nemtsov family members and supporters insist investigators have failed to identify the mastermind who ordered the killing.

11:42 23.12.2016

With 20 minutes to go before the end-of-year press conference starts, it's worth noting that around 1,500 journalists from across Russia and abroad are assembled for the event.*

It will be broadcast live or near-live on most major state media.

*It's not at the Kremlin, as we suggested earlier, but at a Moscow conference center.

11:45 23.12.2016

Putin will almost certainly be asked about eastern Ukraine, where the conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists has now killed more than 9,750 people.

Here's what he said about Ukraine at last year's event:

Putin On Ukraine -- Same Question, Different Answer
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11:52 23.12.2016

Some people waiting on Putin are holding posters.

11:56 23.12.2016

Along with a state-of-the-nation speech and a 'direct line' call-in show, the press conference is one of three major annual set-piece events Putin uses to bolster his image and send signals about domestic and foreign policy.

11:57 23.12.2016

According to Russia 24, 1,437 journalists were accredited for the press conference this year. It's a record.

11:57 23.12.2016

We're about 3 minutes away from the start. The Kremlin is readying the trolls!

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