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Putin Is Taking Questions From Ordinary Russians Along With Journalists As His Reelection Bid Begins

Putin has heavily limited his interaction with the foreign media since the fighting began in Ukraine but international journalists were invited this year.

Vladimir Putin
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Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his end-of-year news conference Thursday — and this year, ordinary citizens are getting the chance to phone in their questions along with journalists, who queued in freezing temperatures hours ahead of Putin's expected arrival.

Putin, who has held power for nearly 24 years, said last week that he is running for reelection in March. Last year, he did not hold his usual call-in show with ordinary Russians or his traditional session with reporters during the fighting in Ukraine. In addition, his annual state-of-the-nation address was delayed until February of this year. His last news conference was in 2021 amid US warnings that Russia was on the brink of sending troops into Ukraine.

Putin 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 Zelenskyy traveled to Washington on Tuesday and made an impassioned plea for more U.S. aid and weaponry.

Putin's appearance is primarily aimed at a domestic audience and will be a chance for him to personally resolve the problems of ordinary Russian citizens and reinforce his grip on power ahead of the March 17 election. “For the majority of people, this is their only hope and possibility of solving the most important problems,” according to a state television news report on the 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. In 2021, Putin called a citizen who asked about water quality in the city of Pskov in western Russia and personally assured him he would order the government and local officials to fix the problem. 

Many journalists hold placards to get Putin's attention, prompting the Kremlin to limit the size of signs they can carry during the news conference, which often lasts about four hours. Attendees must test for COVID-19 and flu before entering the news conference site. Putin enforced strict quarantine for visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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