Members of the media raise cards as they wait to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin a question at Gostiny Dvor center in Moscow today.

Members of the media raise cards as they wait to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin a question at Gostiny Dvor center in Moscow today.

The destruction in Gaza is a “catastrophe,” President Vladimir Putin said as he a compared it to the war in Ukraine.

“Look at the special military operation and what is happening in Gaza and feel the difference. There is nothing like this in Ukraine,” he said. Putin and Kremlin officials have always referred to the war in Ukraine as a “special military operation.”

Putin also criticized the number of civilian casualties in Gaza and called for an increase in humanitarian aid into the enclave.

By contrast, the Russian leader has never commented on the thousands of civilian deaths in Ukraine. Throughout the war the Kremlin has insisted it does not target civilian infrastructure while launching near daily missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian cities.

MOSCOW — President Putin appeared to have a new found confidence as he addresses the crowd at the Gostinyy Dvor center in Moscow.

Buoyant and defiant he shows no sign of backing down on his long stated goals like the demilitarization of Ukraine.

While Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov is moderating the questions, Putin is quickly taking over from his longtime colleague and deciding who he will take questions from.

Russian troops are improving their positions along the entire frontline in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said.

Asked about Ukrainian attempts to secure a foothold on left bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region, Putin said this was Kyiv’s “last attempt” to bring its counteroffensive back to life.

Russia has occupied that side of the waterway since the start of the war and a much-vaunted Ukrainian counteroffensive has little to show for it despite months of planning and billions in allied military support.

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“I think this is silly and irresponsible from the leadership of the country. But it’s their business,” Putin said.

Russia is ready to build relations with the U.S., Putin said when asked about the possibility of normalization of contact with the West nearly two years after the invasion of Ukraine.

Putin called the U.S. an “important and necessary country” in the world, but said its “imperialism politics” get in the way of relations with Moscow.

Asked if there will be another wave of mobilization in Russia, Putin said it was not necessary because around 486,000 contractors have been hired to fight on the frontlines this year.

“The flow of those who want to defend their homeland with weapons in their hands does not stop,” Putin said, adding that 1,500 people get recruited across the country a day.

“So why do we need mobilization? As of today, there is no need for that,” he added.

Russia launched partial mobilization last year, an unpopular move that prompted an outcry across the country and mass exodus of military-age men from Russia, something Putin called a “sensitive question.”

As he spoke at his year-end press conference, the audience listened intently to the Russian leader.

Peace in Ukraine will come when Russia reaches its objectives, including de-Nazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, Putin said today.

Kyiv is currently “getting everything for free,” he said, referring to military aid supplied by Ukraine’s Western allies. He added that the conflict could end “and it looks like it’s ending.”

Putin and his government have regualrly peddled accusations of Nazi elements within Ukraine to justify the attack on his western neighbor, a move that experts have disputed.

His comments came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pleading with the U.S. and other allies to give his country more aid and military hardware.

Vladimir Putin launched straight into the numbers relating to Russia’s economy, which he said was not only recovering but making leaps forward after it was hit hard by Western sanctions after the Ukraine invasion.

Calling it a “good indicator,” Putin said GDP was expected to grow by 3.5% by year’s end.

Russia’s economy was heavily sanctioned after the invasion of Ukraine in an attempt to isolate Moscow and block financing for the war.

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But Putin said it “recovered from the fall” it experienced after those were put in place.

Around 600 people are in the audience at the conference at the Gostinyy Dvor event center in central Moscow, state TV channel Russia 24 reported as Putin entered.

Reporters from “non-friendly” countries are also present, the channel said, referring to foreign media outlets from nations that oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the U.S.

Ahead of the event, media representatives were invited to take their temperature and pass through “a special disinfecting frame with silver ions,” Russian state news agency Tass said, adding this was to minimize any viral spread.

Holding a yellow folder, President Vladimir Putin strode confidently into the event on time and apparently raring to go.

Moderators said they were ready with thousands of questions, including some on what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

State TV channel Russia 24, which is broadcasting the press conference live, is calling it the “most important event of the year.”