These Uncensored Questions Gatecrashed Putin's Annual Call-In Marathon
"Putin, do you really think the people will believe this circus of fake questions?"
Kremlin Press Service
Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual phone-in marathon is a carefully orchestrated affair. The annual event features pre-selected guests who call on Putin to fix their roads, comment on world affairs and smite corrupt local officials.
This year's pageant stretched for a staggering four hours, with the president doling out withering comebacks, promises to aid beleaguered citizens, and unending lists of averages and statistics.
More than 2.6 million questions were submitted before the show, but Russians were still encouraged to send messages to the president by text or by phone while the phone-in was live on air. Questions were then automatically shown on large screens around the studio. What the producers seemingly didn't expect, was the kind of unvetted messages that began on appear on the screens.
A few minutes into the four-hour marathon, social media exploded when one on-screen message asked: "Putin, do you really think the people will believe this circus of fake questions?"
A few other viewers hinted they were keen on regime change.
"When will you give power back to the Communists?" one message asked.
Another simply told Putin: "All of Russia thinks you've sat on your throne for too long."
Putin himself stopped short of confirming whether he would run in Russia's presidential elections in 2018. When asked who his successor would be, the president replied that "the people of Russia would decide."
Others viewers hoping to gatecrash the program looked further afield for information.
"When will Trump come to Moscow?" one asked. "He promised!"
Putin did not discuss meeting Trump, but did field a question from a man in Arizona who said he was concerned about anti-Russian sentiment in the United States.
"I know that Russia has many friends in the United States," said Putin, "but anti-Russia hysteria in the press has an impact." He said that both the Kremlin and the White House wanted better U.S-Russia relations.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan also earned a special mention, with one viewer asking, "Have you taken revenge on Erdogan yet?"
Turkey-Russia relations were not discussed during the show, though a Russian agriculture representative did commend Putin for his ban on Turkish tomatoes. "Sanctions have been a gift to farmers," the audience member said, reassuring Putin that Russian tomatoes had "never been better."
Despite Putin's pledges to provide better care for cancer patients and to rehouse families neglected by local officials, some viewers remained unimpressed.
Or as one onscreen messaged asked: "Why are you the only one who can fix our problems?"