Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Friday (23 December) made his annual marathon press conference.
In a nearly four-hour question and answer session, the Russian president spoke about tax rates, the chances of nuclear war and allegations about his close associates' fondness for massive and expensive houses.
Mr Putin refused to be drawn on his political future, saying "time would tell" when and if he would announce his candidacy at the next presidential election in 2018. "When the time comes, I will make the decision based on the situation in the country and the world", he said. He appeared to rule out calling new elections next year.
Putin spoke confidently, quoting figures and statistics often without looking at his notes. Some seasoned journalists pointed out that Putin looked healthier and more alert this year than he did last year.
Mr Putin said the murder of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador who was shot in Turkey on Monday, would not drive a wedge between the two countries.
Turning to Russia's role in Syria, he claimed joint credit for the evacuation of eastern Aleppo after it fell to Russian- and Iranian-backed government forces earlier this month.
"The president of Turkey and the leaders of Iran [also] played a huge role in this [managing the situation around Aleppo]. I don't know if this will sound immodest, but without our participation it would have been impossible," he said.
Mr Putin also sought to reassure ordinary Russians over domestic affairs, predicting a return to economic growth by the end of next year and ruling out a change to pensions or Russia's 13 per cent flat income tax rate.
Asked by a Georgian journalist to comment on the fact that Georgians will soon be able to travel to Europe visa free Putin sounded conciliatory. He said that visas for travel between European countries was a thing of the past. He suggested Georgians may be able to travel to Russia visa free also, soon.
You can read the full text of the press conference of president Vladimi putin on the Kremlin's web site here
source: commonspace.eu with agencies
photo: Journalists try to catch Putin's eye by holding placards with the subject they want to ask on during the Russian President's annual marathon press conference, this year held on 23 December (picture courtesy of kremlin.ru)