Expert: Ukraine war forced Putin to cancel end-of-year press conference

Rainer Saks.
Rainer Saks. Source: ERR

The cancellation of Russian President Vladimir Putin's traditional end-of-year press conference can be seen as a strategic communications victory for Ukraine, security expert Rainer Saks told radio show "Vikerhommik." According to Saks, the decision to cancel is significant as it shows Ukraine has forced Russia to change its agenda.

Security expert Rainer Saks told radio show "Vikerhommik," that at the moment no major changes are taking place on the battlefield in Ukraine. "The fighting is (particularly) intense at two points in Donbas, near the cities of Bakhmut and Donetsk, where Russia is trying to advance," he said.  

Saks explained, that Russia is trying to hit Ukrainian cities with missile strikes while Ukraine, which has more long-range artillery, has succeeded in hitting Russian military objects to the rear. Strategically, while the initiative is with Ukraine, no major offensive is being conducted at the moment, he said.

Saks believes, that the decision to cancel Vladimir Putin's annual end-of-year press conference is a significant one. "It has been one of Vladimir Putin's trademarks and has undoubtedly been a significant event, in which the Russian President has always performed very well. Answering fast-paced questions from journalists live on air for three or four hours - it's not the kind of thing that just anyone can manage," he said, adding that Putin is better at articulating his goals in a two-way dialogue than he is at giving speeches.

"This dialogue plays an important role in framing (Russia's) objectives just before the New Year. The Russian people have a lot of faith in (what they see on) television (and during the) long New Year period these kinds of messages spread across Russia as people communicate. To cancel it is something very significant," he said.

"I think two things are coming together here. Firstly, war is the kind of subject, which is bad and inappropriate to talk about alongside other subjects, so two or three hours just talking about the war is hard to imagine," explained Saks.

"(Also), looking at the Russian President's recent speeches, perhaps he does not have the energy any more. Maybe he wouldn't last three hours. I mean, he does not have the optimism, nor does he appear to be looking to the future, and can no longer provide a boost to his citizens. This is a very big change in Russia's domestic politics," Saks said.

It could also be seen as a strategic communications victory for Ukraine, which has managed to create a situation whereby the Russian president has considered it necessary to change his agenda.

According to Saks, the Ukrainians continue to be optimistic as they fight for the survival of their country and people. "Ukraine has been through two Maidans as well as major setbacks in the country's domestic politics, but the nation has not collapsed and is not collapsing. This is one of the distinct characteristics of the Ukrainian people."

There have been suggestions in the Western media that the U.S. is now planning to supply Ukraine with Patriot air defense systems. Saks said, that the surface-to-air guided missile system would be the most effective weapons given to Ukraine so far. In his view, this could be the U.S.'s response to Iran supplying Russia with ballistic missiles, as it does not generally send Patriot systems into conflict zones.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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