MOSCOW, December 19 (RIA Novosti) – More than 1,300 journalists were accredited Wednesday for President Vladimir Putin’s marathon press conference, the ninth such event over the three terms he has served as head of state.
The annual encounters with Russian and international reporters have become a regular part of Putin’s efforts to convey an image of openness to media coverage. Media rights activists regularly complain of poor press freedoms in Russia, a claim that the authorities have endeavored to challenge through a variety of public relations exercises.
State television news station Rossiya-24 ran extensive and gushing coverage of the press conference for several hours ahead of the event Thursday, featuring interviews with Putin’s press spokesman and showing highlights from previous editions.
The presidential Q and A events, usually several hours long, have typically proven exhausting for journalists, however, and seem designed in part to prove the 61-year old leader’s physical stamina.
The precise length of the press conference is a regular topic of speculation before the day. Putin set the record in April this year, when he answered questions for four hours and 47 minutes.
In his first question and answer session last year after returning to the presidency, Putin lasted out for ten minutes short of his all-time record.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted in an interview with Rossiya-24 that all questions would be welcome and that his superior was irritated only by “stupid questions.”
“For Putin there are no awkward questions,” Peskov said.