Putin to abandon annual phone-in

2012-10-31 15:00
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Moscow - President Vladimir Putin will this year abandon his usual televised phone-in with Russians which had become an annual tradition over the last decade, his spokesperson was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

"This year it is true that the phone-in will not take place," Putin's spokesperson 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.

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