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

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.