Vladimir Putin today gave his annual televised news conference, with his words described as defiant and patriotic. The New York Times calls his message an "acidic" one, noting he gave no indication of backing down—on Ukraine, or in terms of his anger toward the West. As for the economic doom the country is staring down, Putin framed it as temporary, predicting it would end within two years as oil demand and the world economy strengthen; he also assigned 25% of the blame for the ruble's woes to the West's sanctions. Neil MacFarquhar, the Times' Moscow bureau chief, was one of a number of the 1,200 journalists who live-tweeted the three-hour, 10-minute event. He captured this tidbit, among others: " says he also does not know how much he earns. It arrives (in an envelope?) and he just forwards it to his accountant."
More substantial highlights from the event, which featured journalists who waved toy animals in hopes of being selected to ask a question (a bit of color, per the Guardian: A journo brandishing a "green fluffy crocodile" got to ask about Moscow parking fines):
- One portion of the event getting plenty of press is an elongated metaphor about a bear—real and stuffed. Putin's comments, per the AP and NBC News: "Maybe our bear should sit quietly, not chasing any piglets around, but just eating honey and berries. Maybe they should just leave him alone? They will not. They are trying to put it on a chain. And as soon as they do it they will tear his teeth and claws out." [The teeth and claws are a reference to Russia's nuclear weapons.] "Once they've taken out his claws and his fangs, then the bear is no longer necessary. He'll become a stuffed animal."
- On Russia's interests, per NBC News: "To chop Texas from Mexico is fair, but when we make decision about our territories it is unfair."
- "It might be [true], it might be." That's Putin's take on whether the US and Saudi Arabia are secretly conspiring to suppress oil prices to hurt Russia and Iran.
- Shaun Walker's (of the Guardian) take: "It was pitched middle-of-the-road in all senses, there was lots of rhetoric but no major new policies announced, some conciliatory words about Ukraine but nothing concrete, and the most difficult questions were ducked or avoided. ... His words are unlikely to terrify the market, but probably won’t massively reassure it either."