The annual marathon press conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the awaited moments of this week. Putin held the event via video from his residence at Novo-Ogaryovo just outside Moscow, because of COVID restrictions. Dozens of journalists attended to ask Putin questions in Moscow and other halls set up across Russia. Russian state media asserted “exceptional” precautions were taken to protect reporters, who it said had to present negative coronavirus tests and entered through special disinfectant gates. As usual, Putin answered questions of very broad range of subjects, ranging from the pandemic and relations with the U.S., to the price of pasta and problems with people’s local gas supplies. Putin denied the poisoning of Navalny by security services saying „If they wanted to they would have finished the job.”
Putin spoke positively about Biden in some of his first comments since the election, calling him “experienced” and suggesting he hoped for improved relations with the U.S. Putin said he has not yet received Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, explaining that because he is over 60 years old he is not currently cleared to take it. A clinical trial for over-60 individuals is currently underway. The Russian President accused Western countries of breaking their promise not to expand NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union. He expressed hope that a key arms control agreement with the U.S., the New START treaty, will exist after February. Russia has recorded the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world and is registering over 27,000 new cases daily, but is no no plan for a lockdown.