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MOSCOW, June 14. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, June 15, will appear on Russia’s national television and radio channels in a special annual question-and-answer program. The telecast will begin at 12:00 Moscow time. For the first time, the Q&A call-in will be held in June (in 2001-2011 the program was aired in September, October, or December and in 2013-2016, in April). Here is a brief look back on the history of Putin’s annual televised dialogue with the nation.
For the first time, Putin answered questions from the program’s hosts and the audience present in the studio as well as groups of viewers in front of TV cameras at different sites across Russia and the country’s near neighbors in a live broadcast on December 24, 2001. From that moment on such programs were arranged annually, except for 2004 and 2012. All in all Putin participated in fourteen live call-ins - ten times as the nation’s president and four times in the capacity of Russia’s prime minister. Putin says such direct contacts with the people provide a very clear idea of society’s current interests and concerns.
Questions are asked by guests invited to the program’s studio in Moscow, and from audiences in Russian cities via video links. Several days ahead of the program a call center starts receiving questions by telephone, through the website www.moskva-putin.ru and in the form of SMS and MMS messages. Questions were able to be forwarded to Putin over the world web starting from 2001, and texted from mobile devices since 2003. Video questions began to be recorded in 2014. Registration is automatic through social network accounts. Videos can be mailed from a desktop PC through the call center’s sites. In 2016, it became possible to contact Putin via the social network VKontakte, which telecast the event live. The authors of selected questions are contacted by telephone. In the first dialogue with nation, which the Kremlin formally refers to as the Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, 400,000 questions were asked. From that moment on, queries have steadily climbed all the way to a record-high of 3.25 million in 2015.
In the first call-in marathon there were live video hookups with eight centers in Russia’s administrative regions. In the following years, some minor localities and premises of major industrial enterprises joined in. Also, in different years mobile TV studios were set up in some former Soviet republics - in 2002 in Dushanbe (Tajikistan), in 2003 at Russia’s air base Kant in Kyrgyzstan, in 2005 in Riga (Latvia), in 2006 in Sevastopol (Ukraine, but since 2014, a region of Russia), and in 2007 in Aktau (in Kazakhstan). In 2011-2016, there were more than 100 live video connections with Russia’s regions and former Soviet republics. In October 2012, a decision was taken to change the schedule and move the event up to a warmer season more comfortable for outdoor audiences.
The program’s duration kept growing, too. In 2001, Putin stayed on the air two hours and twenty minutes. In 2013, he set a record of 4 hours and 47 minutes. Putin’s 14 Q&A sessions held so far lasted a total of 48 hours 48 minutes, during which time he answered 979 questions.