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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin, the G8 and 560 Reporters

President Vladimir Putin is expected to speak about Iran, gas, NGOs and social spending when he addresses 560 Russian and foreign journalists at his near-annual news conference on Tuesday.

The news conference, the fifth in Putin's six years as president, will start at noon in the Kremlin Grand Palace's Round Hall and will be aired live on television channels Channel One and Rossia and on radio stations Radio Rossii and Mayak, a Kremlin spokeswoman said.

Putin spent most of the 3 1/2 hours of his last news conference, on Dec. 23, 2004, answering journalists' questions about domestic policies. But he reserved rather strong language for foreign policy issues, accusing the West of meddling in the affairs of Russia's neighbors. The news conference came during Ukraine's Orange Revolution and just three days before the country voted in a rerun presidential election.

On Tuesday, the main focus promises to be foreign policy issues, given that Russia currently holds the presidency of the Group of Eight industrial countries, political analysts said.

"Russia is one of the countries playing a key role in international politics," said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies. "Its priorities in foreign policy are of great interest abroad and will be transmitted through the media to the foreign elite."

Putin will probably take questions on the Middle East, where Hamas easily won Palestinian elections last week, and Iran, which faces a crucial vote on its nuclear program on Thursday that might lead to a referral to the UN Security Council, Makarkin said.

In addition, Putin might have to answer a question about the agenda for a G8 summit that Russia will host in July, he said.

Russian gas sales to Ukraine and other countries will likely be among the issues addressed, especially since Ukraine and Russia have a Wednesday deadline to sign an agreement on supplies. Putin could take the opportunity to clarify Russia's position on Georgia, which raised a storm after a pipeline explosion cut off its gas supplies last week.

The president probably will not be able to avoid an awkward question or two about the recent passage of a law restricting NGOs and a spy scandal purportedly involving British diplomats who authorized grants for NGOs, analysts said. However, given Russia's G8 presidency, he will refrain from making tough remarks and reiterate what he has previously said on the issues, they said.

"What he would like to try to avoid is a question about army reform and hazing, which plagues the army," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, director of Panorama, a think tank.

On Monday, Putin demanded measures to prevent hazings in response to a drunken beating that forced doctors to amputate a 19-year-old conscript's legs and genitals.

Makarkin said Putin might repeat what he has said about the need to modernize the army but was unlikely to criticize the Defense Ministry, which is headed by his longtime confidant Sergei Ivanov. "We should not expect any strong anti-army statements from the president," he said.

Domestic policy questions will likely focus on Putin's grand social spending plans, which will see $4.6 billion pumped into health, education, agriculture and housing this year and next.

A total of 560 journalists, including 160 from the foreign media, have been accredited for the news conference.

A year ago, Putin took a total of 51 questions, including on his plans beyond the second and final term of his presidency and the future of his two daughters. Putin reiterated -- as he has many times since -- that he would not seek a third term and would step down in 2008, as required by the Constitution.

Still, Putin might be asked again about his plans after 2008, Pribylovsky said. "On the whole, I do not expect any surprises from the news conference, unless Putin decides to announce his successor," he said. "But I do not think that will happen so soon. There is still time to think."