LATEST: Putin's press conference has started. Below are the main points so far. 

  • Putin says Russia 'improving' positions along Ukraine front
  • Peace is possible with Ukraine only after Moscow achieved its goals in the nearly two-year conflict
  • Russia can "move forward" despite Western economic sanctions and political isolation stemming from its Ukraine offensive.
  • Putin says 617,000 Russian servicemen deployed in Ukraine

President Putin on Thursday will hold his first year-end press conference since sending troops into Ukraine, with the Russian president feeling the tide turning in his favour nearly two years into the war.

What’s he going to say?

Putin will answer questions from journalists and viewers during the hours-long marathon, a week after he announced he is running in next year's presidential election, which would keep him in the Kremlin until at least 2030.

The Russian leader will “sum up the results of the year,” his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“It will be a combined format of the Direct Line and the president's final press conference,” he added.

Direct Line is a carefully choreographed call-in televised show that Putin has held annually –with a few exceptions – since 2001.

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Why didn’t he hold it last year?

The event was cancelled last year amid a struggling war in Ukraine that saw Kyiv take back swathes of its territory from Russia in the east and south.

Ukraine's strong resistance and support from its allies had surprised observers around the world and in Moscow, where many had expected to conquer Kyiv in a few days.

But almost two years into his offensive, Putin may be sensing that his fortunes are reviving.

Ukraine's latest counteroffensive failed to pierce heavily entrenched Russian lines, and support from its allies is fraying.

Railway Station Destroyed After Russian Attack in Kostyantynivka
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Railway Station Destroyed After Russian Attack in Kostyantynivka

One person was injured in the attack, which also damaged the church and about a dozen houses and shops.

Does Putin have reason to be optimistic?

During a visit to Washington this week, President Volodymyr Zelensky failed to overcome Republican opposition in Congress to approving a new $60 billion aid package.

And the Russian economy has withstood Western sanctions that aimed to isolate Russia – though the economy's long-term resilience remains uncertain.

Moscow is still able to sustain its war effort through oil sales, which Putin discussed during a trip this month to the UAE and Saudi Arabia where he was received with full honours.

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In any case, Putin's election campaign, which he launched last week, is unlikely to be forced to address the real economic and human costs of the offensive.

What else will he discuss?

During Thursday's event, he is expected to address domestic issues and international politics, and to repeat his customary rhetoric distorting Ukraine's past.

Russian callers have already sent over 1.5 million requests, and Russian state-run news agencies reported that most call-in questions relate to the war in Ukraine, housing and public services.

Putin will also lay out his ambitions for the March 17 election that will allow him to extend his decades-long grip on power into the 2030s.

There is little doubt surrounding the result, as most of the opposition is in exile or behind bars.

Putin's most high-profile rival, Alexei Navalny, is currently serving a 19-year prison sentence on political charges.

And the Kremlin has intensified its crackdown on dissent since the assault on Ukraine.

Thousands of people have been detained and imprisoned for protests, and many thousands more have fled the country in fear of being called up to fight.

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