Somewhat cranky and slightly under the weather Putin graced the foreign journalists with his presence for almost 4 hours. Starting right off the bat with some optimistic economic indicators (that he used to be able to juggle without any papers), the conference progressed with its predictable pace and predictable plot points: a bunch of questions on economy, token booed Ukrainian question, some dad jokes and good tsar, bad boyars excuses. There was no panache, pizazz or punch. Putin is tired (at some point he was off by 20 million when talking about the Russian population) and his whataboutist rhetoric expected. His cough has got better since last year though.
At the beginning, Channel One gleefully pointed out that all accredited journalists are welcome at the press-conference (not really) and there are absolutely no restrictions. Press Secretary Peskov started with the Kremlin press pool soft ball questions (as though they don’t get enough access to the body of the sovereign on a regular basis). Crimea came up almost right away and kept coming up throughout the press conference. Putin got himself some rally-around-the flag theory ready and angrily pointed out that the only reason there was a “provocation” in the Kerch Strait is because presidential elections are coming up and President Poroshenko was looking to boost his failing rating. Moreover, Russia will increase its military presence in the Azov Sea the way it sees fit, especially given that some governmental officials in Ukraine are threatening to blow up the pained Crimea bridge. Putin forcefully denied that an “annexation” of the peninsula took place (despite having used that word himself several days prior). It was the citizens who came and voted to re-unite with Russia and now they are being punished for their vote by Western sanctions.
Speaking of votes, Putin offered some criticism for the ones who are seeking a do-over for the Brexit referendum. A vote is a vote and trying to subvert the will of the people is not democratic. Yes, the UK should really try to learn from Putin how to subvert the will of the people properly and having a second referendum is definitely not the way to go. Thanks to the Syria troops’ withdrawal news, the Trump-Putin honeymoon is still ok-ish. America still wants to dominate the world (Russia doesn’t) and the chances for another reset are dwindling thanks to the Democrats who will take over the House. That pesky democracy.
A question about double standards came from RT. Without naming anybody, the journalist complained about the situation where Russia is instantly punished for the Skripals attempted murder, while other countries ride sanction-free into the sunset after chopping their journalists inside consulates. Putin readily agreed (although, does that mean that he implicitly admitted Russian government’s responsibility for the poisoning…?) and went on a tirade about the West’s two sets of rules for Russia and not Russia. The Russophobia talking point came up quite frequently, Putin even made a longue durée argument, inviting the journalists to look up diplomatic mail of the 19thcentury that showed that the West was never comfortable with Russia’s rising might and has always sought to undermine it.
For those of you, who were hoping to sleep better at night hoping to avoid a nuclear Holocaust, it was not a good day. Putin cautioned about the risk of a catastrophic atomic conflict and criticized the United States for abandoning Cold War-era arms treaties. Because when a missile is headed toward you, who the hell knows whether it’s nuclear or not? Also, bad news for you single gals out there – Putin is planning to get married again implying that he is already taken.
To finish up on a lighter note, here is Putin’s latest joke: one of his head of state colleagues was asked about the dire human rights situation in his country. His response: which human?! One would wonder whether this “colleague” is the one with whom Putin recently shared a bro handshake at the G20.