What did Putin have to say in Direct Line?

The last two times the Kremlin boss cancelled the traditional annual TV show Direct Line, in which he takes questions from citizens and journalists. But on Thursday, the show was aired for the first time since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A number of critical questions went unanswered, commentators note.

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Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Now is not the time for change

Radio Kommersant FM summarises the key messages to the people:

“We cannot say that everything is going well in our country, but the situation is basically under control. ... Our course is therefore not subject to doubt. There are problems and inconsistencies, but, dear fellow citizens, you can see what is happening outside. ... It could be much worse if it weren't for our Russian state power, which is taking the right measures. ... Now is not the time for change, and even less for reforms. Perhaps that time will never come. But that's not our fault, it's the fault of the hostile environment. ... Our task is to maintain stability.”

Echo (RU) /

New dependency and no end to war

Republic editor-in-chief Dmitry Kolesov sums up the event in a Telegram post republished by the Russian exile medium Echo:

“Sovereignty has finally been declared the main goal of Putin's power. Everything else is secondary. If you think about it for a moment, this goal is of course completely meaningless. Because in reality, dependence on the West is becoming dependence on China instead. There was no answer to the question about ending the war in Ukraine - just abstract words about denazification and demilitarisation again. The question as to when the conscripted soldiers would return was not mentioned.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Living in parallel worlds

Some queries got through the propaganda façade via SMS, Tygodnik Powszechny notes:

“In addition to the questions asked by journalists in the studio and submitted by citizens via the staff, questions could also be asked via text message. The content of these questions was displayed on a large screen in the studio. Some were controversial from the organisers' point of view and were not read out loud. However, viewers were able to read them if they were closely following what flashed up on the screen. One of the questions addressed to the president could be seen as the quintessence of today's show: 'Why is your reality different from our reality?'”

La Stampa (IT) /

The illusion of a free debate

La Stampa sees the show as an ingenious coup with a repetitive character:

“The huge screens showing large letters spelling out what is normally not allowed to be said in public, starting with the word 'war', created the appearance of a free debate. A Russia in which everyone can say whatever they want to, in which there is discussion and freedom of opinion, and all thanks to a president who knows exactly what is on his people's minds. ... Everything, including criticism, is under control, in a show that is orchestrated down to the tiniest detail with a now classic script.”