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Putin and the people The Kremlin stages its end-of-the-year marathon press conference, combined with a televised call-in show, to showcase Russia’s presidency

On December 14, Vladimir Putin held his end-of-year press conference and his usually-annual “Direct Line” question-and-answer show, combining them into a single event. It was the first time the Russian president had fielded questions in this format since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Over a period of more than four hours, Putin spoke about:

  • The success of the Russian economy
  • The 400,000 volunteer soldiers who purportedly signed contracts with the Defense Ministry this year
  • How there won’t be another wave of mobilization
  • The prospects for the release of jailed U.S. citizens Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan
  • How the U.S. and Europe forced Russia to launch its full-scale invasion of Ukraine
  • Western aid to Ukraine
  • The “military-patriotic education” of Russia’s youth
  • The situation on the front and drone supplies to Russian troops
  • The war in Gaza
  • The future of the annexed Ukrainian territories
  • The fate of former mercenaries and injured veterans
  • The price of eggs, an increase in pensions, and the rise of utility prices
  • The Baikal–Amur Mainline railroad
  • The fate of civil aviation in Russia
  • Russia’s relations with China, Turkey, and France
  • Measles vaccinations and the state of Russia’s healthcare
  • The rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Russophobia throughout the world (but not in Russia)
  • Russia’s new history textbooks
  • How Russia can decrease its abortion rate

The event lasted four hours and four minutes, during which time Putin answered 67 questions, as counted by RIA Novosti.

And that concludes this year’s “Direct Line” show and end-of-year press conference. The broadcast ended almost immediately, but based on experience, we’ll wait a few more minutes — Putin might say something else on the sidelines.

Peskov announces the final question, posed by Andrey Kolesnikov (from Kommersant).

“What advice would you give to 2001 Putin? What would you tell him?” he asks.

Putin says he would tell himself, “You’re on the right path, comrades!” He says he’d also warn himself not to trust so-called partners, “but to believe in the great Russian people.”

A journalist from the news site is holding a sign with the character Rainbow Dash from the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The poster is likely a reference to the fact that the show was recently labeled 18+ on the streaming site KinoPoisk following the Russia Supreme Court’s ban on the “international LGBT movement.”


The moderators have moved onto the blitz, which usually signals the end.

What did you dream of being when you were a kid?

I wanted to be a pilot, and... in high school I wanted to be a scout, and I became one.

Herring or Olivier (salad)?

Depends on the appetizer.

Most memorable gift from Santa Claus?

The greatest gift is children and our children's children. This is a gift from the Almighty.

The gifts we are most pleased with are the ones we give. We look at ourselves in the mirror: “Ay, how good I am.” Especially for men.

What advice would you give to young people?

Keep your honor. In the broadest sense: we should think today about what will happen tomorrow. And I would add that you should set ambitious goals and tasks that seem unattainable.

What are you reading?

I’m going to reread the Criminal Code, because some people think that some of our punishments are too harsh. But… I don’t have much time to read. There’s a copy of Lermontov on my bedside table. A brilliant young man. It’s very interesting how brilliant people of that time thought, what their values were. And in general, he’s, well, a brilliant man. I read it with pleasure.

A journalist asks about projects for supplying gas to Russia’s regions and Asian countries and questions why “one of the most important resources” is still being supplied to the West.

Putin responds that projects for the gasification of regions are already underway and that the supply of gas to Asian countries is going well and will be expanded in the future. He says that gas is supplied to Europe because Gazprom is fulfilling all its obligations, and if customers are not receiving enough gas, it’s not Russia's fault. Putin says that the Nord Stream pipeline was blown up with American involvement.

Putin on abortions

Putin: Well, is there a ban?

TV presenter Ekaterina Berezovskaya: Not yet. But there is a decrease in private clinics, isn’t there?

Putin: There’s no ban? I’m reminded of the bans that were part of the anti-alcohol campaign. It led to a rise in poisonings due to alcohol surrogates. And we need to be very careful in the situation with abortions as well. I know the church’s position; it has to take that position, as a church.

The state has an interest in women making decisions in favor of preserving the child’s life; that much is obvious. But women’s rights and freedoms must be respected. And the solution to this problem lies in two areas. The first is an appeal to traditional values, one of which is the concept of a large family. […] The second is that we need to get women’s counseling services in order. And to think about ways to improve maternity wards.

And thirdly, we need to think about how to support families with children further down the line. Mortgages, subsidies. That kind of approach.

We are now past the four hour mark.

A new question from the Volgograd region from a farmer who appeared in a Cossack uniform.

He asks about the state’s support for agriculture, complains about difficulties with milk delivery on bad roads and sends his regards to Cossaks involved in the war.

Putin reports on the growth of agricultural production (with numbers), praises the work of the Ministry of Agriculture, and thanks agricultural workers for a great harvest.

“Food security has been ensured, but there is still work to be done,” he says, and again mentions rising prices for eggs and chicken meat.

Putin on the war in Ukraine: “Victory will be ours.” He said that he would be pleased to visit the “new regions.”

A volunteer from the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic” (“DNR”): “My fellow volunteers and friends died during a humanitarian mission, and I was also injured. Every day we’re on the brink of life and death. Guys from other regions come to us, they receive insurance — if they die, their families get compensation. But we, the locals, don’t get such insurance.”

Putin responds: “I agree. Everyone should be given equal rights, regardless of whether someone was a citizen of Russia when they were injured or not.”

A question from a journalist from Republika Srpska: “There are conflicts all over the world, and this affects the Balkans as well, complicating an already difficult situation. You know the political situation in Bosnia, it is a de facto Western protectorate, they accuse Republika Srpska of supporting Russia and “expanding malignant Russian influence. There is not a single Russian media outlet in Serbia, but there’s a flood of Western media.

How do you see the future of Republika Srpska and the entire region?”

Putin: “Our assessments of this situation and your political leadership fully coincide. It’s really a pity that there are no Russian media outlets, RT has not been accepted, has it? I will ask my colleagues [from RT and] from the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company to see what can be done.

The future should be determined by the people who live there, no matter what decisions are imposed on them.”

A journalist holding a “Luhansk People’s Republic” sign says he doesn’t have any questions for Putin; he just came to thank him.

“As of today, the Luhansk People’s Republic has nothing to complain about,” he says. “I just have one small question: When are you coming to visit?”

Putin says he’ll be happy to visit, adding that the city of Luhansk is “clean and tidy.”

Context: Russia and the Donbas

Who decided on the boundaries of the ‘Russian World’? A brief history of Donbas separatism

Context: Russia and the Donbas

Who decided on the boundaries of the ‘Russian World’? A brief history of Donbas separatism

A journalist from RIA Novosti asks about the areas of Russia’s Belgorod region that are constantly under shelling. She inquires about what is being done to assist residents and whether it is even necessary to expand manufacturing in such areas “until the completion of the special military operation.”

The broadcast immediately airs a video message from an entrepreneur in Shebekino, who proposes creating a special economic zone there. Putin promises to bring this issue up for government consideration.

And now for a question about artificial intelligence: an eight-year-old girl, Arina from Volgograd, says that at school they were scared how a robot would replace people — her, mom, dad, grandma....

Then they turn on the next video — it’s a deepfake of Putin, who asks if the president has many doppelgängers, and how he feels about neural networks.

Putin: “’You can look like me and speak in my voice. But I thought about it and decided that only one person should be like me and speak in my voice — that’s me,’ joked one of our people.”

He points to the deepfake — “this is my first double.”

Putin says the Russian “blogosphere” is a free realm and that if the government is interfering with anything, bloggers should speak up and he’ll try to fix the problem. “I just have one wish: the people working in this sphere have an enormous responsibility, because there’s no oversight from the state. So people need to operate from a place of corporate ethics and self-restrait. That concerns morality, ethics, and the safety of children,” he says.

Censoring the RuNet

From ‘protecting children’ to ‘discrediting the army’ A brief history of 10 years of Russian Internet censorship

Censoring the RuNet

From ‘protecting children’ to ‘discrediting the army’ A brief history of 10 years of Russian Internet censorship

The press conference has now been going on for more than three and a half hours. Putin is coughing almost incessantly. The broadcast directors put two video questions back-to-back.

A journalist from Komsomolskaya Pravda asks why Russia needs a new history textbook. He also asks about Putin’s feelings regarding the upcoming anniversaries of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the end of the Siege of Leningrad, and the end of the “Great Patriotic War” (WWII).

Putin says these anniversaries hold “immense significance” not only for him but for everyone from the former USSR. As for history textbooks, he says “there were over 60 versions” and there needed to be “some fundamental state version” for everyone. Putin adds, “Today’s child is tomorrow’s citizen.”

“I am aware that questions arise and there has been criticism,” says Putin. “But textbooks must be truthful.”

Question: “Why have the prices of AvtoVAZ products gone straight to the moon?”

Putin: “Well, not to the moon, [they’ve gone up] by 40 percent. When European, Japanese, and South Korean brands left Russia, they left with their components. The question of developing our own industrial base arose.

AvtoVAZ is coping. ‘The more [cars] there are - the lower the price will be.’ The costs are related to the fact that the manufacturer is sourcing imported components, but at a different price. This affects the price rise.

The most important thing is to develop your own platforms. This takes time. And prices will go down.”

Putin on Russia’s domestic automobile industry:

Those who thought that everything in our country would collapse were mistaken: nothing here has collapsed.

A journalist from the French TV network TF1 asks Putin about his relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron. Putin says the two leaders had “good, kind working relations” until Macron cut off contact. “If there’s interest, we’re ready. There’s plenty for us to work on,” he says.

Journalists in the hall are holding placards to get Putin’s attention. He hasn’t responded to the handwritten one that say “pain” yet, nor has he responded to Radio Purga.

A resident of a village not far from Yekaterinburg says that healthcare infrastructure created during the Soviet era has collapsed and there is no way to get medical care.

Putin promises to look into it. He says that developing primary healthcare, particularly in rural areas, will be one of the points of his new presidential program.

Peskov gives the floor to RT. “How do you assess the growing nationalism both in Russia and around the world? And anti-Semitism. There is no such problem on the front — a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian can sit in a trench and all is well with them.”

Putin: “The latest public opinion survey showed that 96% of Russian citizens consider inter-confessional harmony to be a huge advantage in Russia compared to other countries. And moves on to the topic of traditional values that traditional religions uphold.

Islamophobia and anti-Semitism — there are indeed upward trends. Linked to the fact that people are facing injustice. Referring to events in Gaza, ‘there is a certain reaction throughout the Islamic world.’ It is ‘the result of the policies of certain elites.’ Thus, the rise of anti-Islamic phobias follows.

And as for Russophobia, this is one of the vectors of the fight against Russia. The world has it. We must do everything we can to prevent this from happening in our country. We will thwart attempts to rock society from within.”

Asked about the impact of foreign sanctions on Russian aviation, Putin says that airlines “bought too many foreign planes.”

“It would have been better if they’d, in a timely manner, concerned themselves with creating a market for domestic technology,” says Putin. “We’re buying back some of these planes, and they’re becoming the property of Russian airlines. But we need to develop our own aircraft manufacturing. We plan to produce over 1,000 planes by 2030. We’re starting production on a more powerful engine.”

Putin emphasizes that “there will be something for pilots and passengers to fly on.”

New York Times Moscow correspondent Valerie Hopkins tells Putin that it’s been more than a year since Western journalists have been allowed to take part in these kinds of press conferences. “It’s [Kremlin press secretary Dmitry] Peskov’s fault,” Putin responds.

Hopkins then asks Putin about the U.S. citizens currently imprisoned in Russia, including Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested on espionage charges in March 2023.

Putin asks what “Austrian” colleague she’s talking about and someone clarifies that Gershkovich is an American. He then says that Russia is “in contact with the American side” but that any agreement made must be “mutually acceptable.”

“The dialogue on this matter is ongoing and is not easy. I hope we will find a solution, but the American side must hear us,” Putin says.

Evan Gershkovich’s arrest

‘He wanted to belong there’ American journalist Evan Gershkovich has spent six months behind bars in the country his parents fled 38 years ago

Evan Gershkovich’s arrest

‘He wanted to belong there’ American journalist Evan Gershkovich has spent six months behind bars in the country his parents fled 38 years ago

The press conference has now been going for more than two hours, and most of the questions have been about Russia internally. Even questions about the “Special Military Operation” have been related to paperwork and payments.

Putin responds to a question about what impact BRICS will have on the world order:

“There are no rules for the world order; they change every day depending on the political situation. BRICS will show that there are many powerful forces in the world that want to live not by unwritten rules, but by the rules laid out in the U.N. Charter, that are interested in their own interests, do not create military blocs, and do not impose anything on anyone.”

A journalist from Amurskaya Pravda asked, “isn’t it time to put the Baikal-Amur Magistral (BAM) back on the map of Russia.” Putin asks what she meant.

The journalist clarified that she’s talking about a separate Baikal-Amur railroad within Russian Railways. At present, the historical BAM is divided between two railroads, she says.

Putin admits that this is the first time he has heard of such a problem, but he is ready to “have a talk” with the management of Russian Railways, but that he does not understand how unification can help “new construction.”

After answering a question about egg prices, Putin makes a crude joke about male anatomy using a Russian slang term: “I was just talking to the agriculture minister the other day. I asked him how his eggs are doing.”

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