Most phone-in shows involve people complaining, but there are few where the man on the other end is the President himself. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘Direct Line’ has become one of his biggest events, reaching millions of viewers and projecting him as a man of action.
CGTN’s Dan Ashby reports.
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At times, his advice was personal:
“Congratulations on having four babies! All Russian women should have at least three babies because we need to populate our country.”
Other times, it was global.
“Is World War III about to begin?” asked one citizen.
“No,” replied the president. “But we cannot let this strain in international relations go on. We must find a new European security architecture to keep the peace.”
The timing of this is no coincidence, just days ahead of football’s showpiece event: the World Cup.
President Putin has been holding these phone-ins for more than a decade, but this one comes just before the World Cup. The Kremlin hopes it will show that President Putin is in control and listening to what Russians really want. Critics, however, have said it’s a carefully constructed show, with many of the most difficult questions left out.
“Of course we don’t hear too much in this chat show about the struggling economy and the real problems of Russia,” said Opposition campaign manager Vitali Shkliarov. “It presents Putin as a president ‘above the fray’ who can correct governors who are making mistakes. When in actual fact, President Putin is responsible for many of those issues himself.”
Either way, according to the government-run poll, President Putin is still wildly popular. His jokes on shows may even help.
“What’s the best joke you’ve ever been told?” one person asked.
“That Russia interfered in the US election!” said Putin
So once again, Russians were able to call up their President. However, his popularity will depend on whether they think he’s listened.