The Christian Science Monitor

A new year and a pivotal moment for Putin and Russia

It is an annual, made-for-TV fixture on the world’s news calendar, a bit like a Kremlin Super Bowl, minus the drama about who will emerge as the star player. Yet President Vladimir Putin’s latest marathon press conference, in December, has set the stage for a potentially defining period in his nearly 20-year drive to restore Russia’s status as a major power.

Two hot spots are likely to dominate his

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