Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to host his annual marathon press conference on Thursday via a video chat for the first time ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event is almost certain to feature questions about the pandemic and related economic downturn, as well as Russia’s state-produced vaccine, Sputnik V.

Another likely question would be concerning allegations of Russian state involvement in the near-fatal poisoning of dissident Alexei Navalny with the nerve agent Novichok. Russia has rejected such claims.

The conference traditionally lasts several hours and, while being open to domestic and foreign journalists, tends to focus on domestic issues, such as the struggling economy and public health care.

Putin, 68, has been in power as president or prime minister for two decades, presenting himself as a guarantor of the country’s stability in contrast with the lawlessness of the post-Soviet 1990s before he came to power.

Without directly mentioning the coronavirus, the Kremlin said the conference would be conducted remotely “because of the complicated epidemiological situation.”

Russia has recorded the world’s fourth-largest coronavirus caseload, with more than 2.7 million cases, amid a surge in recent months.

Putin plans to host the conference from his Novo-Ogaryovo residence in the Moscow region, with accredited journalists to participate at designated venues in Moscow and other major cities.

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