During his notoriously long December press conference, President Putin denied that his security forces were involved in the near-fatal poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. “If they really wanted to poison him, they’d have finished the job,” he said, despite the recent publication of an investigation that detailed exactly how Putin’s agents had pulled off the attack.
Not mentioning Navalny by name, and instead referring to him as the “Berlin patient,” Putin said the opposition leader was supported by the CIA and that the Bellingcat investigation was “a way to legalize material from western secret services.”
On President Donald Trump’s historic loss to Joe Biden, Putin first said that Russian hackers “didn’t help Trump get re-elected,” implying that if they had, he would have won.
Then he took a conciliatory tone about Biden. “We presume that the newly elected U.S. president will understand what is going on,” he said. “He is a person with experience in both domestic and foreign policy. We expect that at least some of the problems will be ironed out under the new administration.”
Around the four-hour mark of the epic annual event, Putin took his first questions from non-Russian journalists, becoming noticeably annoyed at the BBC journalist who asked him if Russia was to blame for the current state of tension in the world. “We are more white and fluffy than you. It wasn't us who pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. It wasn’t us who pulled out of the Open Skies treaty,” he said in a rant. “What, do you think we’re idiots or something?”
On the pandemic, Putin said he had not yet received the Sputnik vaccine because he didn’t fit into the criteria of who gets it first and that it “hasn’t been certified for people of his age,” adding that yes the situation is bad but it is “worse in more developed countries.”
Pressed multiple times on his praise for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov despite sanctions by the U.S. against him and his family, Putin said the U.S. “made up accusations” against Kadyrov because he is loyal to Russia.
Putin conducted the annual Q&A session from a secluded studio and journalists were socially distanced in a press center where they were asked to change their single-use masks every two hours. The microphone cover was also changed after each question and journalists were given the cover they used to take home in a little plastic bag.