PRESIDENT Putin is holding his first staged TV call-in show since his invasion of Ukraine – and Russians are desperate to know if he’s dying.
The tightly-controlled “Results of the Year with Vladimir Putin” allows a selection of handpicked citizens to ask their ageing ruler, 71, about the state of the country.
Putin has kicked off his highly-choreographed and heavily anticipated call-in show
Putin last hosted his end-of-year conference in 2021 before his invasion of Ukraine
The foreign media has been invited to attend the in-person Putin speech for one the first times since the war began
AFPThe event is considered more about spectacle than scrutiny of the president[/caption]
Putin has so far stated that “peace will come when we reach out goals” and that Russia’s goals in Ukraine remain unchanged.
The marathon press conference started at 9am GMT and will be a chance for him to speak to ordinary Russian citizens and reinforce his grip on power ahead of the March 17 election.
The call centre set up by the Kremlin said that most of the submitted questions concern utility bills, price increases and payments to the armed forces.
However, a poll conducted by The Times in Moscow this week found otherwise.
The survey in fact discovered that the most popular question was about the war – 19 per cent wanted to ask when there will be peace.
Only 13 per cent were interested in questions over pensions, standards of living and benefits.
Another 10 per cent had no interest in asking Putin anything.
But this followed closely with 9 per cent wanting to ask about the health of their long-term leader.
The Moscow residents wanted to know when the despot would leave office and when he would die.
Their concern follows years of feverish speculation surrounding Putin’s ailing health as questions have been raised over his changing facial features and signs of a possible serious illness, including Parkinson’s and pancreatic cancer.
“What would I ask? Everyone has already asked everything. You know what I mean. But where are the answers?” one respondent told The Times.
Open criticism of either the war in Ukraine or Putin’s regime is risky business inside Russia.
The Kremlin has made it an official offensive to “discredit” the Russian military or spread “fake news” about the conflict.
Only 7 per cent of those surveyed expressed support for the war or Putin, while one in four declined to state what they would ask Putin today.
Russia has lost 315,000 men in its grinding and bloody war of attrition in Ukraine, US intelligence claimed this week.
Putin’s last end-of-year news conference was in 2021 amid US warnings that Russia was on the brink of sending troops into Ukraine.
Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address was also delayed until February of this year.
The Russian leader has heavily limited his interaction with the foreign media since the fighting began in Ukraine but international journalists were invited this year.
With the future of Western aid to Ukraine in doubt and another winter of fighting looming, neither side has managed to make significant battlefield gains recently.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to Washington on Tuesday to make an impassioned plea for more US aid and weaponry.
Putin’s appearance is primarily aimed at a domestic audience and for the majority of people, it is their only hope and possibility of solving the most important problems, according to Kremlin-controlled Russia 1 channel.
State media said that as of Wednesday, about 2 million questions for Putin had been submitted ahead of the broadcast, which is heavily choreographed and more about spectacle than scrutiny.
It comes as Russia said its air defence systems had downed nine Ukrainian drones headed towards the capital, only hours ahead of a highly anticipated news conference.
“On-duty air defence units destroyed and intercepted nine Ukrainian UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) over the territory of the Kaluga and Moscow regions,” the defence ministry said as they blamed Kyiv for the attack.
Ukraine has been hitting Russia far behind enemy lines with regular drone attacks since the summer after it launched a fresh but troubled counteroffensive to regain territory lost to Moscow.
The drone assault followed Kyiv enduring a “night of hell” as Russia launched a massive missile attack that left 53 injured.
Ukraine’s air defences downed ten strikes – believed to be powerful Russian Iskander missiles – but damage was caused by falling rocket debris.
The horror hit damaged a children’s hospital and apartment building and marked the biggest number of injured in the Ukrainian capital in months.
Volodymyr Zelensky sat down with President Biden to push for a renewed military aid package
Footage of Kyiv’s hellish night on December 13 after Putin launched a barrage of missiles at the capital
Ukraine said its air defences downed ten strikesLeave a comment