2014 Q&A marathon: Public awaits Putin’s take on watershed year for Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding a press conference on the pressing issues of the day, including the economic turbulence and volatility of the national currency, at noon on December 18. This is the 10th annual press conference to be held by the Russian President. Similar formats in the past lasted normally up to several hours.
The state of the Russian economy and recent confrontation with the West are the issues that some of the 1,200 journalists attending the event will likely seek to tackle first.
“It is clear that the economy will be the first thing that will be asked,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Rossiya 24 TV news ahead of the big event. He said that the Kremlin expects questions “on the situation in the economy, the situation with the ruble, prices, measures that the leadership of Russia have in mind to tackle these.”
Since the beginning of 2014 the ruble has fallen almost 50 percent against the US dollar. In an effort to halt the devaluation of the national currency the Central Bank has raised its key interest rate to 17 percent, a measure that was not enough to effectively stop the volatility.
At the same time, the price of food products in retail chains in the past year in Russia have risen by up to 25 percent and it is feared that in the first months of 2015 prices could rise even further.
Putin will also likely discuss the tense geopolitical situation that has been shaped following the Ukrainian turmoil and civil war and Crimea’s referendum to join Russia. Peskov called 2014 an “unusual” year in terms of “a paradigm shift in the international system,” something that the Russian president plans to elaborate on even further.
The hostilities in Ukraine are expected to remain one of the main topics of discussions as a ceasefire in Donbass announced by Kiev last week is barely holding up. Meanwhile, accusing Moscow of “aggression” in Ukraine, NATO countries have not only slapped Russia with economic sanctions, but also stepped up the military presence on Russian borders.
The biggest question of all is how Russia will react if further sanctions are introduced by the US and the EU.
In preparation for the Q&A session, Putin has been actively seeking expert opinion from a number of government ministers, analysts and advisers. Peskov says, that the Russian leader is prepared for any possible question.
“The press conference is always a place where the president can be asked any questions,” he said, highlighting that the president will answer uncensored questions, summing up the events of the outgoing year.
The live Q&A press conference was first held in 2001 and hosted over 500 journalists. Since then it continued annually until 2008, when Putin became Russia’s prime minister. It was reintroduced in 2012 after Putin was re-elected president.
In his previous key public address Putin made a strong stance against US-led attempts by the West to weaken Russia during his State of the Nation address to the Federal Assembly earlier in December.