Russia's Putin to abandon annual phone-in: official
MOSCOW - Agence France- Presse
Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a Presidential Council meeting on science and education at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/PoolPresident Vladimir Putin will this year abandon his usual televised phone-in with Russians which had become an annual tradition over the last decade, his spokesman was quoted as saying Wednesday.
"This year it is true that the phone-in will not take place," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Kommersant daily. "It has not been scrapped: just this year there will be a different format," he added.
Kommersant said that according to its sources Putin could instead call a grand end-of-year news conference in late November.
Putin has held the annual phone-in event broadcast live on Russian television since 2001 and continued the tradition even while he held the post of prime minister from 2008-2012.
He has used the format to boost his macho action-man image, using earthly language designed to appeal to ordinary Russians.
When asked in the December 2010 phone-in about the plight of jailed ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Putin simply declared: "A thief must be in prison." It is unclear if the shelving of the phone-in is linked to the changing political scene in Russia which has seen unprecedented protests against Putin's rule and the Kremlin hit back with what activists say is a draconian crackdown.