At his annual press conference, Russia's President Putin made a relaxed appearance; he talked, but did not say anything new. No one has any use for media presentations like that, writes DW's Juri Rescheto.
I knew the multipurpose hall. A couple of years ago I danced there with the assembled Moscow press. The Russian press ball used to be held in the World Trade Center. The vodka flowed freely. The multipurpose hall always meant something to people, but now?
Now everybody was dancing here again in honor of one person - Russian President Putin. But it meant nothing. In his most important media appointment of the year, the head of the Kremlin only expressed long-known and familiar opinions.
The strongest man of the largest country in the world kicked off with the traditional topics of wheat and weapons. Apart from gas and oil production, agriculture and weapon exports are among the few profitable industries. Putin knows all about them and can cite figures before and after the commas. Right at the beginning of his press conference, he almost risked putting the 1,500 interested reporters to sleep with facts that no one could quickly check up on.
Russia's economy is shrinking - but not so fast
Nonetheless, the message counts and this was the message: Russia's economy is shrinking. But it is not shrinking rapidly. Incidentally, less Russians are dying on average than they were a few years ago. Well, this is, of course, a success story.
Otherwise, Putin is a master of popular interview tricks. His response to any awkward questions was always, "You are right about that! We are working on it!"
What about the murder of Boris Nemzov? Everyone was told that the investigation is running and that the murderers must be found. Putin expressed his faith in the Russian justice system. What about Russia's interference in the US election campaign? No evidence! The Russian president said it was clear that the losers, the Democrats, were not taking a look within for the causes of their defeat, but instead, looking for fault in others. Trump was not mentioned at all, nor was the personal phone call a few days ago with outgoing President Obama. "I am not commenting on that," said Putin.
"Everything is running according to existing agreements"
Once again, Putin proved he is a master of placating, but at the same time, saying nothing. Even the somewhat sensationalist statements about the continued development of Russian nuclear weapons, the threat of an arms race with the USA, or his the modernization of the Russian army - which is being carried out at full speed - were summarized in the soothing statement, "Everything is running according to existing agreements".
What about the Ukraine crisis or the death toll in Donbass? A Ukrainian journalist tried to make an appeal to Putin's conscience, and warned him that the image of Russians as occupiers will be permanently engraved in the minds of their Slavic cousins. Putin retorted that Kyiv's government troops in Donbass should beware of going down in history as occupiers in their own country. But he added, that yes, of course, he wanted a better relationship with Ukraine. Like everyone, right?
A relaxed president at the end of a successful year
As the year comes to an end, Putin seemed very relaxed after the press conference was over. The year 2016 was successful from his point of view. Russia is back in full force on the international scene - in Syria, in Turkey and maybe soon in the USA. But this success has been built on shaky ground. The recapture of Palmyra from IS terrorists has proven precarious. And then the Russian Ambassador was murdered in Turkey. Now, everyone is waiting to see the real Russia policies of Donald Trump in his role as American president, not just presidential candidate.
So perhaps the Russian president should not dance quite so carefreely at the end of this year. Even if there are still rivers of vodka flowing in the multipurpose hall.
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