Pithy one-liners and salty language? Check.
Fawning questions from the state media? Check.
Carefully screened "unexpected" and "tough" questions? Check.
Evasive answers and inaccurate claims? Check and check.
Vladimir Putin's annual press conference had all the usual elements.
But this year's nearly four-hour marathon, which kicked off Putin's reelection bid in earnest, seemed to be missing something: a compelling overall message.
On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we look at this annual winter ritual in light of the upcoming presidential election.
Joining me is veteran journalist and Kremlin-watcher Kiryl Sukhotski, executive editor for Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.
Also on the podcast, Kiryl and I discuss the verdict in former Economics Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev's corruption trial and its political significance.
Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to The Power Vertical Podcast on iTunes.
NOTE TO POWER VERTICALISTAS: I will be travelling to Kaunas, Lithuania, from December 18 to December 20 to speak at the opening ceremony of the Andrei Sakharov Research Center for Democratic Development at Vytautas Magnus University. No Power Vertical products will appear on those days. The regular schedule resumes on Thursday, December 21.