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Putin To Hold Annual Call-In Session

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks after last year's question-and-answer session.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks after last year's question-and-answer session.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will hear questions and complaints from across the country and abroad in an annual call-in show, one of a handful of live performances he holds every year to burnish his image.

The Direct Line show on June 7 comes exactly a month after Putin was sworn in to a new six-year term following a landslide election that foes said was marred by fraud and international observers said did not present voters with a genuine choice.

The event is likely to be closely choreographed, with Putin fielding selected questions from among more than 1.3 million that have been submitted and sending signals about an array of domestic and foreign-policy issues.

Billed by state TV as a "conversation with Vladimir Putin," it is set to start at noon in Moscow (900 GMT/UTC) and, if past years are any guide, could last about four hours.

Four state television channels and three radio stations are to broadcast Direct Line live.

Organizers began taking questions by telephone, Internet, and text message on May 27 and will keep those channels open until the show is over.

It is the 16th such Q&A session conducted by Putin, 65, who has been president or prime minister since 1999 and began the tradition in 2001. No Q&A session was held in 2004 or 2012.

Putin also gives a large annual news conference and, in his years as president, delivers an annual state-of-the-nation address.

Of the three set-piece events, the Direct Line is Putin's best chance to portray himself as a leader who is firmly in control of the country but also has his finger on the pulse of the people

In past sessions, he has vowed to fix -- or ordered subordinates to fix -- both broad, national problems and specific, local ones raised by callers from far-flung regions. The results have been mixed.

In a change from previous editions of the Direct Line, there will be no audience at the venue near the Kremlin where the event is held.

"It was decided this time to focus on questions from Russians who are unable to come to the direct-line studio," state-run Rossia-24 television said. It said questions would be posed using interactive screens in the studio.

The Q&A is a also a chance for Putin to comment on international affairs and on Russia's relations with the West.

The 2018 version comes with ties still severely strained by tension over Russia's interference in Ukraine, its role in the Syria war, what Western governments say was its poisoning of a former double agent and his daughter in England, and other issues.