Verdict: Putin's press conference a show to please Russian audience (4)
Erkki Bahovski, an Estonian political journalist and editor-in-chief of monthly magazine Diplomaatia, said to ERR's “Ringvaade” program that the massive Thursday's press conference by Russian President Vladimir Putin was a show and didn't carry any new messages.
“Putin has organized these shows for years and media outlets have afterward quoted him extensively. Its objective by Russian authorities is to portray Putin as accessible person - that he is in touch with public, and answers difficult questions when necessary,” Bahovski said.
Bahovski conceded that Putin has proven to also accept challenging and uncomfortable questions, and always replies to them.
“Some analysts have interpreted that he leaves questions unanswered, but he always says something. He is not afraid of them,” he said.
But Bahovski said that Putin's press conference didn't bring any new messages.
“If we summarize his message, then “the Americans are always to blame for Russia's actions”; “Russia was provoked to act in Ukraine”, and so forth. It is like an old Putin's mantra all over again,” Bahovski said.
Political scientist Karmo Tüür agreed.
“The questions put forward to President were more acute than in previous years, but this was expected as Russia's situation is today a bit different than before,” Tüür said to ERR's radio program Uudis+.
Tüür was positively surprised that an Ukrainian journalist was allowed to ask an uncomfortable question about the situation in Ukraine.
“The journalist effectively accused Putin for the military operation in Eastern Ukraine and asked what would the Russian President say to victims of the bloodshed. Putin evaded from giving a straightforward answer and instead blamed Kiev again for the situation, continuing with a usual Russian rhetorics. But the fact that such a question was allowed to put forward, is positive in itself, whether we interpret it as another element of ongoing info war or not,” Tüür said.
Tüür said that most characteristic was the question and answer about the cause of Russia's isolation from the West. A Russian journalist asked from Putin whether it would be fair to concede that Western actions and sanctions against Russia are the direct result of the annexation of Crimea, therefore Russia can only blame itself. Putin turned it around and said that that it's not the retaliation for the annexation of Crimea, but for Russia safeguarding its sovereignty.
"In other words, Putin said that we don't do anything, we only protect Russia from the external pressure and aggression,” Tüür said.
Tüür also said that Putin's rhetoric is often characterized by justification, “the others do the same.”
Putin's press conference, to which almost 1,300 journalists were invited to, took place on December 18, and was the tenth such event. The conference lasted for three and half hours.