This time, due to the pandemic, reporters asked questions via video link from the huge country’s conference rooms, to the east, to the port city of Vladivostok, more than 5,500 miles in the Pacific Ocean. Mr Putin spoke remotely from a studio outside his residence in Moscow, in line with his practice since the beginning of the pandemic of practically avoiding physical contact with others.
The few journalists who were in the same room as Putin during the press conference were quarantined for two weeks in a Kremlin-run hotel under the supervision of the Russian version of the secret service. They were forbidden to leave their room without an agency permit and were given their food in disposable utensils placed in a chair in front of their door, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
The issues, as always, alternated between geopolitics and local issues such as the Crimean water supply. A ten-year-old boy asked why other countries don’t like Russia even though “we didn’t hurt them”. Sergei Shnurov, a rock star journalist, asked Mr Putin why Russian hackers had not helped President Trump win this year’s US election and whether Mr Putin was planning to offer Trump a job in Russia.
“I don’t think Trump needs help locating,” Putin said. “He has a fairly large support base in the United States, and as far as I understand, he has no plans to break away from the political life of his country.”
U.S. officials have said in recent days that parts of the State Department and the Pentagon are among government agencies threatened by sophisticated Russian hacking, but Mr Putin has not commented on the matter. Instead, he said Russian-American relations had become “hostage to U.S. domestic politics,” suggesting that Democrats ’criticism of Mr. Trump was perceived as too quiet against Russia.
“We expect the new President-elect of the United States to understand what is going on here,” Mr. Putin continued, referring to Joseph R. Biden Jr. “He is an experienced man, both in domestic and foreign policy. And we expect that all the problems that have arisen – if not all but at least some – will be solved by the new administration.”
The press conference focused on the coronavirus epidemic, which killed 49,151 people in Russia – according to official statistics, which are widely seen as underestimating tolls. Mr. Putin, echoing the joint presence of Russian officials and state media, acknowledged that he had hit Russia hard, but insisted that things get worse elsewhere. He raised the possibility that the government could give members of the public only one dose of Russia’s main coronavirus vaccine instead of two to get the vaccine quickly to more people.