Following a string of military failures in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin canceled his yearly long news conference, a symbolic admission that his country’s war has gone wrong.
Putin often uses the annual tradition to hone his image, fielding a wide range of inquiries about local and international affairs to show that he has a firm grasp of the issues and appears approachable despite the strictly stage-managed nature of the occasion.
But this year, with his soldiers on the defensive in Ukraine, it might be impossible to escape awkward questions about the mistakes made by the Russian military, even at a carefully staged ceremony.
Putin will not hold the press conference this month without justifying, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
Although questions are almost usually pre-vetted, the U.K. stated that the cancellation was most likely brought on by growing worries about the predominance of anti-war sentiment in Russia. On Twitter, the Defense Ministry posted a comment.
It stated, using Moscow’s phrase for the conflict, “Kremlin authorities are almost definitely extremely concerned about the risk that any function attended by Putin could be hijacked by unauthorized debate about the “special military operation.”
Some of his prior presentations lasted longer than 4 1/2 hours, and he occasionally fielded challenging questions while using them to make fun of the West or disparage his domestic rivals.
This year, Putin also scrapped another yearly tradition—a call-in television program where he answered questions from the general public to promote his father-of-the-nation persona.
He has not yet fulfilled a constitutional requirement by giving the yearly, televised state of the country speech to parliament. There is no scheduled time for Putin’s speech.
The Kremlin has criminalized the dissemination of any information that varies from the official narrative, including labeling the campaign a war and muzzling any criticism of its invasion of Ukraine from the liberal anti-war side.
However, it has come under growing fire from Russian hardliners who criticized the president as being indecisive and weak and urged intensifying operations against Ukraine.
The decision to cancel the news conference, according to political analyst Abbas Gallyamov, was probably made because Putin “had nothing to say from the point of view of strategy.”
On February 24, Putin gave the order to invade Ukraine, claiming that due to NATO’s failure to guarantee that Ukraine wouldn’t be invited to join the alliance, Moscow was forced to “demilitarize” the nation.
The attack by Russia on its neighbor was condemned as an unprovoked act of aggression by Ukraine and much of the rest of the world.
In a matter of days, Putin and his officials had hoped to destroy the Ukrainian military, but a tenacious Ukrainian resistance, supported by Western weapons, rapidly thwarted those plans.
The Russian army withdrew from areas near Kyiv in March following a failed attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital fast.
Ukraine regained control of the strategically important southern port city of Kherson last month after losing vast tracts of terrain in the northern Kharkiv area in September.
Putin’s order to mobilize 300,000 reservists in September has failed to change Russia’s military fortunes.
Thousands of Russians have left the country in response to the mobilization order to escape being drafted, and those who have been called up have reported acute shortages of essential supplies.
Putin said that winding up the campaign could be a “lengthy process” last week in a rare admission that the operation in Ukraine is taking longer than he planned, but he continued to insist that it was proceeding according to plan and would accomplish its objectives.