Dec. 17 (UPI) -- In his annual end-of-the-year news conference on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he's not yet decided if he'll run again in 2024, denied poisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny and hoped for better U.S. relations in 2021.
The news conference has become almost tradition for the longtime Russian leader and often moves among a number of topics over a period of several hours of questioning from reporters.
Russian amended its constitution in the summer, which now allows Putin to run for president again when his term is up in four years and possibly stay in the Kremlin until 2037.
Putin, who's served two stints as Russian president, said he's uncertain about his future political moves.
"Was it worth it or not to amend the Constitution? I have a universal rule," he said. "You need to ask yourself: Will this be for the good of the country? "If it is, then it's worth doing.
"I have not yet decided if I will run again in 2024. To do it or not to do it, I will see. Stable development of the country is my priority."
Putin first served as president between 1999 and 2008 and became prime minister from 2008 to 2012, when he began his second tenure as Kremlin leader.
The 68-year-old president has been the subject of numerous criticisms while he's been in office. One of the more recent scandals to shake the Kremlin was Navalny's poisoning in August, for which Putin and other Moscow officials have consistently denied responsibility.
Thursday, Putin was dismissive about an investigation into the poisoning attack, which nearly killed Navalny. Doctors are certain that the opposition leader was poisoned by military-grade Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent that Russian agents have been accused of using before.
Novichok was also used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter in 2018. They ultimately recovered.
"This is not an investigation, but an attempt to legitimize materials from the American special services," Putin said, theorizing that the United States is using Navalny to attack his leadership.
Among other things, Putin effectively said that if his administration had poisoned the outspoken Navalny he'd be dead by now.
"Our security services keep on eye on him, but that doesn't mean we have to poison him. We did not poison him, who needs him?
"If someone wanted to poison him, they probably would have finished the job."
Putin also said at Thursday's event that he hopes for an improved relationship with the United States under new President Joe Biden. Putin in the past has been a proponent of President Donald Trump's and heavily interfered in the U.S. election in 2016 to get him elected, according to U.S. investigators and intelligence experts.
U.S.-Russia relations have both improved and deteriorated since Trump took office.
"We presume that the newly elected U.S. president will understand what is going on," Putin said. "He is a person who has experience in both domestic and foreign policy.
"We expect that all problems which emerged, or at least some of them, will be ironed out under the new administration."
Putin also claimed at Thursday's session that Russia has managed the COVID-19 pandemic better than most countries and said its "Sputnik V" vaccine has proven to be 97% effective.
"Russia is the first country in the world, which has invented ... and started to produce [a] vaccine," he said. "And we have a good vaccine [that is] both safe and effective."
Putin said he has not taken the vaccine because he's too old.