From Ukraine Crisis to Gender Politics: Key Takeaways From Putin's 2021 Presser
14:18 GMT 23.12.2021 (Updated: 14:20 GMT 23.12.2021)
The annual presidential press conference, which first took place two decades ago, was held in person despite the coronavirus pandemic. The Moscow Manege, located just outside the Kremlin, was picked to host the event.
During his annual year-end press conference on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin answered a wide range of questions relating to pressing international and domestic issues. He touched upon topics like Russia's relations with NATO, the situation in Ukraine, the issue with gas supplies to Europe, and shed light on Moscow's ties with other members of the globe.
Sputnik has collected a round-up of key points made during Thursday's 2021 presidential press conference.
As Russia continues to dismiss Western accusations of "amassing troops" and "preparing an invasion" of Ukraine, Putin yet again reiterated that Moscow does not threaten anyone.
"We are not the ones who are threatening someone. Are we the ones who went there, to the US borders, or to the borders of the United Kingdom or somewhere? They came to us, and now they still say: no, now Ukraine will join NATO as well", Putin said on Thursday during an annual end-of-year press conference.
The issue of security proposals rolled out by Moscow earlier this month emerged as well, with Putin estimating the reaction from the West as "largely positive". He said that both sides have picked their negotiators, and discussions on the issue
are expected to kick off in Geneva early next year.
The president said he hoped that the negotiations would follow a constructive path. But he said that the ball is now in the West’s court, recalling how often has Russia been "deceived" by Western countries.
"Not a single inch to the East - that's what we were told in the 90s. So what? Cheated. They just cheated insolently", Putin said. "[There were] five waves of NATO enlargement. And now, please, in Romania, in Poland, there are corresponding [military] systems".
23 December 2021, 10:34 GMT
After decades of breaking its promises in order to pursue its own security interests in the post-Soviet space, Putin said that the West should be the first to give Russia immediate security guarantees.
The Russian president again underlined that for Moscow, NATO expansion eastward is unacceptable. According to Putin, requesting that the US not place missiles near Russia is “not too much to ask”.
“It was the United States that came to our house with its missiles … Is this too much to ask for? Not to place attack systems near our home? What is unusual here?” Putin questioned, wondering how Washington would react should Russia "place its missiles in Canada or Mexico".
Situation in Ukraine
In regard to Ukraine, Putin said that, despite Moscow's desire to have good relations with Kiev, it is "almost impossible" with the current government in the neighbouring country.
According to the Russian president, his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky has fallen under the influence of radical elements and "Nazis", instead of "responding to the request of the Ukrainian people for peace".
Further touching upon the situation in Donbass as the region continues to weather the ongoing conflict, Putin said that the only way to resolve the matter is by sticking to the Minsk agreements – something that Kiev, according to him, is failing to do.
"I must honestly say: they refused, we had to work with them in order to convince them to sign these documents. They did it. Now they [Ukraine] simply refuse to talk to them, declare them terrorists and say: ‘We will not talk to them'", Putin said.
The Russian president recalled history, referring to how Ukraine, at the stage of its creation, appeared to include "historically Russian territories". He also talked about more recent events: particularly, the reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia. According to Putin, there were no plans in the Kremlin in regard to the region before the Ukrainian coup took place in 2014.
23 December 2021, 10:16 GMT
European Energy Crisis
Responding to accusations made by Kiev and the European Union against the Russian gas company Gazprom, Putin denied that the firm is to blame for the ongoing energy crisis in Europe.
"There is no truth here. This is just an attempt to turn everything upside down again... Yes, they lie all the time", Putin asserted.
He went on to suggest that Germany was reverse-pumping Russian gas to Ukraine through Poland, pointing to a pipeline connection between Poland and Ukraine that has the same capacity — three million cubic metres per day — as what is being pumped from Germany to Poland.
He added that Gazprom supplies the entire volume of gas requested by its counterparties under existing contracts. Moreover, Gazprom has increased gas supplies to countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States, the president stressed.
According to him, this gas could have ended up in Ukraine, and "consumers in Europe, in Germany, should know what’s going on and maybe they should ask responsible authorities to clear things up".
21 December 2021, 16:04 GMT
Relations With China
Putin said that Russia and China have "an absolutely comprehensive partnership of a strategic nature", adding that the two nations continue to work in nuclear energy and high technologies, as well as other areas. He went on to say that Russia is ready to supply energy resources to China after 2060, when the two countries should reach carbon neutrality.
Additionally, Putin revealed that Moscow and Beijing have teamed up to develop high-tech weapons, cooperating in space and aviation. His counterpart, Xi Jinping, is Putin's "friend", and the two enjoy a "very trusting personal relationship" that helps improve business ties as well.
"This strenuous daily work benefits both the Chinese and Russian people and is a major stabilising factor in the international arena", Putin said.
The Russian president also commented on the US decision to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing, slamming it as "unacceptable".
"I spoke with a former US president, and he told me that the boycotts of the Olympics in Los Angeles and Moscow were a big mistake, made by the United States as well. But the United States continues to make the very same mistake. What caused that exactly? It is an attempt to curb China's growth", Putin explained.
When asked by a Sputnik correspondent about a possible recognition of the Taliban* government in Afghanistan, the Russian president said that Moscow is working with all international partners to come up with a consolidated decision on the issue. Still, Putin noted, such a decision must "proceed from reality".
"I would like the relations between Russia and Afghanistan to develop in the best possible way, bearing in mind our mutual interests in stabilising the situation in the region", Putin said.
He also underlined the need to unfreeze Afghan financial assets in order to prevent famine from occurring in the war-torn country.
When asked about the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, Putin criticised Germany and France for not returning his calls when he asked them to share the evidence they say they have.
Despite having personally asked the French and German leaders to allow Russian experts to go over and take samples, Putin said he only received "silence" in response.
He accused Navalny, who is jailed in Russia on charges of violating parole, of using politics as an excuse for breaking the law.
Navalny is claimed to have been poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent in August 2020. He was airlifted to Berlin for medical treatment. After he returned to Moscow in January 2021, he was arrested on charges of violating the conditions of his parole (he was charged with large-scale fraud and money laundering). Later, his suspended sentence was replaced with a prison term.
Protection of Traditional Values
The issue of the so-called "new ethics" and gender identity was also raised during the big presser, with Putin saying that Russia should have an "effective antidote" to non-traditional values coming from abroad.
“Just like with the coronavirus pandemic one can't escape [non-traditional values coming from abroad]. We need to look for an antidote. If one thinks that a man and a woman is the same thing¸ let them think so, but there has to be common sense in everything", Putin said.
He also touched upon the issue of gender identity and how it affects sports, referring to situations when a man "declares that he is a woman and starts competing in weightlifting".
"I am a proponent of the traditional approach that a woman is a woman and a man is a man", he said.