This time around, because of the pandemic, journalists asked questions by video link from conference rooms across the vast country, as far east as the port city of Vladivostok, more than 5,500 miles away on the Pacific. Mr. Putin spoke remotely from a studio at his residence outside Moscow, in keeping with his practice since the start of the pandemic of avoiding virtually all physical contact with others.
The few journalists who got to be in the same room as Mr. Putin during the news conference all spent two weeks in quarantine in a Kremlin-run hotel, under the watch of Russia’s version of the Secret Service. They were barred from leaving their rooms without an agent’s permission and received their food in single-use containers placed on a chair outside their door, the state run RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The questions, as always, alternated between geopolitics and local matters such as the water supply in Crimea. A 10-year-old boy asked why other countries did not like Russia, even though “we don’t do them any harm.” Sergei Shnurov, a rock star turned journalist, asked Mr. Putin why Russian hackers did not help President Trump win this year’s American election and whether Mr. Putin planned to offer Mr. Trump a job in Russia.
“I don’t think Trump needs any help finding employment,” Mr. Putin said. “He has quite a large base of support inside the United States, and as far as I understand he does not plan to depart from the political life of his country.”
American officials said in recent days that the State Department and parts of the Pentagon were among the government entities compromised by a sophisticated Russian hack, but Mr. Putin did not comment on the matter. Instead, he said Russian-American relations had become “hostage to domestic politics” in the United States, referring to Democrats’ criticism of Mr. Trump as being too soft on Russia.
“We expect that the new president-elect of the United States will understand what is going on,” Mr. Putin went on, referring to Joseph R. Biden Jr. “He is an experienced man, both in domestic politics and in foreign policy, and we expect that all the problems that have arisen — if not all, then at least some — will be solved by the new administration.”
Questions throughout the news conference focused on the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 49,151 people in Russia, according to official statistics that are widely viewed as understating the toll. Mr. Putin, echoing a common refrain of Russian officials and the state media, acknowledged that Russia was hit hard but insisted that things were even worse elsewhere. He floated the possibility that the government could give members of the public just one dose of Russia’s main coronavirus vaccine, instead of two, to get the vaccine quickly to more people.