For a man with a bad back, Russian President Vladimir Putin sat up straight for more than four hours today in his annual marathon news conference, brushing off claims that he's an authoritarian leader and lashing out at the US:
- He complained that a recent US law that allows sanctions on Russians deemed to be human rights violators was arrogant. "Why does one country consider itself entitled to spread its jurisdiction to the entire world?"
- Putin rejected the frequent description of his rule as authoritarian, saying that he wouldn't have stepped down after two terms if that were the case. "If I had thought that a totalitarian or an authoritarian system is the preferred one, I would have just changed the Constitution. It would have been easy to do."
- Notably, Putin used the news conference to assert that Russia recognizes change is needed in Syria. The admission does not appear to herald a change in Russia's stance—Putin reiterated Moscow's long-standing call for negotiations to end the fighting—but may show a growing willingness to view its longtime ally as obsolete.