VLADIMIR Putin has cancelled his annual press conference for the first time in 10 years and axed his New Year's Eve party at the Kremlin.
It comes amid ongoing rumours about his poor health and his struggles with Russia's disastrous war in Ukraine.
Putin has been speculated to be suffering ailments from cancer to Parkinson's – and has repeatedly appeared unwell on camera.
And meanwhile, there is growing dissatisfaction with his failing war as Russia fast approaches 100,000 casualties in Ukraine.
Since 2012, the final press conference of the President of Russia has always been held in December.
The seemingly weak and sickly Vlad may be seeking to dodge being quizzed about Russia's failures and uncertain future.
Vlad is believed to thought he could have rolled over Ukraine in days – but has ended up with a long, bloody slog in the trenches.
Russia's advances have been thrown back by a valiant effort from the heroic Ukrainians, who are backed with support from the West.
And now the 70-year-old's future is believed to be tied to his invasion's success or failure.
Putin has been warned he could face an internal uprising unless he manages to achieve something in Ukraine.
It follows claims by senior Ukrainian figures that Putin fears he will be killed if he loses the war in Ukraine, and so is "fighting for his life".
And secret Russian spy documents revealed by The Sun Online showed fears for Vlad's health.
Putin's condition has been subject of feverish speculation – with him appearing twitchy, unsteady on his feet, and out of breath on occasion.
Mad Vlad was seen clutching a thick blanket earlier this year while watching a parade, and last week was seen swaying and slurring as he spoke with a glass of champagne.
The major end of year press conference usually takes place between December 14 and 23.
But the Kremlin today announced it will not take place.
At the annual press conference, he routinely faces questions from 500-plus Russian and also foreign journalists in major televised live event that can last more than four hours.
The decision came even though reports suggest he had already decided that Western media should be banned from the event amid the war in Ukraine.
The moves mean he is not even ready to face Russian journalists in the glare of a major live event and be openly quizzed about his war.
His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin would find a way to communicate with the Kremlin “pool”, mainly Uber-loyalist journalists, many from state media, despite aborting the live session which was one of the highlights of his year.
He also indicated a press conference could take place in the New Year but gave no specified date or format.
Putin had earlier postponed his annual live Direct Line question and answer session with ordinary Russians.
It was cancelled over concerns he would face complaints over the war and his chaotic mobilisation.
Peskov also failed to give a date for Putin to address the senate – or Federation Council – which is a formal annual duty under the constitution.
Putin's stooge said: "As for the big press conference – yes there won’t be any until the New Year.
“We do, however, expect the president will find a way to communicate….with the Kremlin Pool”.
Putin is also not to host a New Year celebration, Peskov announced.
The press conference with Putin has been held annually in December for a decade.
In 2019, a record 1,895 journalists were accredited.
Putin had foolishly expected to steamroller Ukraine and for his soldiers to be welcomed as "liberators" – but they have faced a fierce fightback.
Cities and regions seized at the start of the war at the end of February are now being retaken by the Ukrainians.
The West is heavily supporting Kyiv – loading them up with the weapons they need to defeat Russia.
The recent advances by Ukraine now opens the gateway to Crimea, the territory illegally seized by Russia in 2014.
The return of the peninsula to Ukrainian hands would be an unprecedented failure for Putin.
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