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Putin, vigorous despite recent back trouble, defends himself in annual news conference

  • b6508f64b7043923240f6a7067000fb1.jpg

    Members of the media raise their hands to ask questions as Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Putin says a draft bill banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children is a legitimate response to a new U.S. law that calls for sanctions on Russians deemed to be human rights violators. But he has not committed to signing it. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze) (The Associated Press)

  • 72a3f9acb71b3923240f6a70670029c5.jpg

    Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Putin says a draft bill banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children is a legitimate response to a new U.S. law that calls for sanctions on Russians deemed to be human rights violators. But he has not committed to signing it. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) (The Associated Press)

  • 60715e19b71b3923240f6a706700f791.jpg

    Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Putin says a draft bill banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children is a legitimate response to a new U.S. law that calls for sanctions on Russians deemed to be human rights violators. But he has not committed to signing it. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) (The Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected charges of authoritarianism and lashed out at the U.S. in his annual marathon news conference.

Although Putin had been laid up by back trouble in the fall, cancelling some foreign trips and reducing his time at the Kremlin, he showed no sign of weakness on Thursday, responding to questions for 4.5 hours.

Putin criticized the U.S. for a recent law that could impose sanctions on Russians over human rights issues and said that a draft retaliatory bill that would ban adoption of Russian children by Americans was an appropriate response. However, he did not commit to signing it into law.