Direct Line: Putin's yearly Q & A session
In his annual TV question and answer session 'Direct Line', Russian President Vladimir Putin spent several hours answering questions from the public. New this year was the format: the studio audience has disappeared, replaced by live broadcasts with top government officials. Commentators from Russia and Ukraine take stock of this year's session.
Voters no more than a TV audience
In the view of journalist Kirill Martynov of the daily paper Novaya Gazeta the citizens' political involvement has been further restricted:
“This virtual democracy would look modern if this were a country where free elections were held on a regular basis and the politicians in power weren't always the same. But this digital optimisation of the people in the 17th year of the Direct Line seems like more than the creation of a symbolic block. The citizens and the leadership are no longer risking a face-to-face meeting but prefer to communicate as avatars. A year ago I wrote that the Direct Line was the only functioning state institution. This is still true today, but now a superfluous part of it has been removed: the voter.”
Ideas on Ukraine's future are a mockery
Unian's Russia correspondent Roman Zymbaljuk sums up what Putin had to say about Ukraine in the call-in:
“He is not bothered either by the war that has claimed thousands of lives or by the occupation of a country that has robbed millions of people of their fatherland. ... Because by all accounts he's not particularly interested in whether people actually want the 'joint future' in a free Ukraine of which he spoke. In fact he has also established the role Ukrainians will play in this 'future' and speaks about it openly: Russia's demographic problems are to be solved at our country's expense [through simplified citizenship procedures for Ukrainians]. Whether those affected are happy about solving these demographic 'problems' can be answered if we ask why these people are fleeing Donbass, which has supposedly been freed from 'Ukrainian fascism'. This question went unanswered.”