Russian president Vladimir Putin holds his annual year-end press conference tomorrow (Dec. 20) at 12pm local time. The Kremlin is billing it as a way for reporters to get barrier-free access to the longtime leader. A record 1,702 journalists have been accredited to attend.
Putin’s conferences in the past have been typically characterized by softball questions, or as CBC’s Moscow correspondent put it: “more like a scene from The Godfather than an exercise in journalism.” (Russia’s media is classified as “not free” by advocacy group Freedom House). Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov promised ahead of the conference it won’t be an “orchestrated event” but journalist’s questions have been screened in the past. While foreign journalists are attending, the Kremlin plans to give preferential access to local media. Only two Western outlets, the Associated Press and ABC, were called on in 2017.
State-run news agency TASS said Putin is expected to address the economy, as well as regional and international concerns. But viewers will be watching closely to see if the Russian president fields any questions about president Donald Trump, the military intervention in Ukraine, and human rights abuses at home. He’s even been known to crack a few jokes.
If past conferences are any guide, it will be a marathon event—2008’s year-end conference lasted four hours and 40 minutes. Putin’s annual “Direct Line” Q&As, in which he addresses questions from the public, have also been known to go on for hours:
An English-language livestream of the press conference should be available on RT and Sputnik News’ YouTube channels at 12:00pm local time (4:00am EST). The Guardian News channel also streamed last year’s conference.
Russian TV stations Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, Channel One, and NTV will broadcast the event. Radio stations Mayak, Vesti FM, and Radio Rossiyi will also air audio of the news conference.
For live commentary, here are a few journalists worth following who cover Russia, and are likely to be watching tomorrow’s news conference.
- @HenryJFoy, FT’s Moscow bureau chief;
- @Andrew__Roth, The Guardian’s Moscow correspondent;
- @polina_ivanova, Reuters’ Russia correspondent;
- @NatVasilyevaAP, AP’s Moscow correspondent;
- @RolandOliphant, who covers Russia for The Telegraph.