Kremlin Announces Date For Putin’s Live Call-In Show

Tower and Building Inside Kremlin

(Article text ©2021 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – June 20, 2021 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-putin-call-in-date-set/31316967.html)

The Kremlin has announced the date of President Vladimir Putin’s live, nationally televised call-in show, an event that will fall about 10 weeks before the flagging popularity of the ruling political party is put to the test in national elections.

Such events — when average Russians are ostensibly able to ask Putin questions directly — have been held regularly in the past.

But this year’s event, set for June 30, comes with the country’s dominant party, United Russia, suffering from record-low public approval.

That’s potentially problematic for the Kremlin, which last year engineered changes to the constitution, opening the door for Putin to stay in power potentially until 2036.

If other parties gain seats at the expense of United Russia, or if there is lackluster turnout in the September 19 election to the 450-seat State Duma, that could make the next presidential election, in 2024, more troublesome.

Putin, who is already the longest-serving Russian leader since Josef Stalin, has not indicated whether he will run for reelection.

While Russians are increasingly anxious about stagnant wages, growing inflation, and declining quality of life, Putin remains an all-but-unrivaled political figure, with high approval ratings.

At a party congress on June 19, Putin, who is not formally a party member, announced that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu would head United Russia’s candidate list– a move aimed at increasing voter enthusiasm.

The government has also taken steps to quash opposition political movements, including that of Aleksei Navalny, the anti-corruption crusader who built a formidable national organization that has dented Putin’s public image.

He survived a near-fatal poisoning last year, then was jailed upon returning to Russia in January after recuperating in Germany.