Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled his annual year-end news conference amid setbacks in his invasion of Ukraine, The New York Times reports.
Putin has held the marathon sessions for years but is skipping it this year as the war effort sags and the economy falters under the weight of western sanctions.
A spokesperson for Putin did not provide a reason for the cancelation, though he suggested it could be rescheduled for next year.
Putin has held the news conference every year that he has been president since 2005 after first introducing them in 2001.
Many commentators attributed the cancelation to his reluctance to answer questions about the invasion.
“He has nothing to say”:
Political analyst Abbas Gallyamov argued that Putin canceled the news conference because “he has nothing to say from the point of view of strategy.”
“The press conference has become a significant fixture in Putin’s calendar of public engagement and has frequently been used as an opportunity to demonstrate the supposed integrity of Putin,” the U.K. Defense Ministry said on Twitter.
“Although questions are almost certainly usually vetted in advance, the cancellation is likely due to increasing concerns about the prevalence of anti-war feeling in Russia,” it said. “Kremlin officials are almost certainly extremely sensitive about the possibility that any event attended by Putin could be hijacked by unsanctioned discussion about the ‘special military operation.’”
Putin’s army has lost large swaths of land in eastern Ukraine, including in the Kharkiv region and the key city of Kherson.
A mobilization of some 300,000 recruits has failed to stop the bleeding and the military has been beset with reports of shortages of key supplies.
The Kremlin has banned media from criticizing the invasion and criminalized protests against the war.