Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to cancel his annual year-end press conference, which he has held every year since 2012, except for a brief hiatus when he was prime minister. The press conference, which usually lasts for several hours and covers a wide range of topics, is seen as a way for Putin to showcase his achievements and address domestic and international issues.

The Kremlin did not give a clear reason for the cancellation, but some analysts have suggested that it may be related to the ongoing war in Ukraine, which Putin launched in February 2022, claiming that he wanted to “demilitarize” and “denazify” the country from NATO influence. The war has been met with widespread condemnation from the international community and resistance from the Ukrainian army and volunteers.

The war has also taken a toll on Putin’s popularity at home, as many Russians have expressed dissatisfaction with the rising casualties, economic sanctions, and military draft. According to a recent poll by the Levada Center, an independent polling agency, only 48% of Russians approve of Putin’s performance, down from 69% in January 2022. The same poll found that 55% of Russians oppose the war in Ukraine, up from 37% in March 2022.

Some observers have argued that Putin may have canceled the press conference to avoid facing tough questions from journalists about the war and its consequences. Others have speculated that Putin may be ill or preparing for a major escalation of the conflict. However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied any health problems or plans for a new offensive, saying that Putin was “working as usual” and that he would still communicate with the media in other formats.

The cancellation of the press conference comes amid a series of setbacks for Putin on the battlefield and on the diplomatic front. In September 2022, Ukraine regained control of most of the Kharkiv region, which borders Russia, after a successful counter-offensive. In November 2022, Ukraine recaptured Kherson, a strategic port city on the Black Sea coast, cutting off Russia’s access to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. In December 2022, NATO announced that it would provide Ukraine with more military assistance and training, as well as invite it to join its Membership Action Plan, a step towards full membership.

Putin’s decision to cancel his annual press conference may indicate that he is losing confidence in his ability to win the war or justify it to his own people and the world. It may also signal that he is rethinking his strategy and looking for a way out of the quagmire. However, it is unlikely that he will admit defeat or make any concessions to Ukraine or NATO without significant pressure or incentives. The war in Ukraine remains a dangerous and unpredictable situation that could escalate at any moment.

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