Putin’s 2016 Marathon Q&A Session Was Polished, Folksy and Intelligent

April 16, 2016 in News by D

Source: russia-insider.com
By Gilbert Doctorow

Anyone watching Russian state television in the past weeks would have been keenly aware that today was D-day, the day of the annual marathon Q&A session of President Vladimir Putin with the nation.

Russians were advised not only how to dial in on the usual land lines, but how to direct their video calls, send SMS or MMS, write in by email.

The only instructions missing were for acquiring seats in the auditorium which were evidently allocated by the presidential administration following its own notion of distribution by profession and industrial sector.

Millions of questions and opinions were sent in ahead of the show. The operator posts manned during the show indicated that there were tens of thousands of live attempts to get a word to the President as he spoke.

Today’s show was clocked at something more than three hours. A year ago it was well over four hours. But the difference then and now went well outside any question of volumes of questions or time spent with Vladimir Vladimirovich on air.

The whole exercise was far better choreographed and more impressive technically. Just as Putin has recently taken to using teleprompters from time to time to achieve a more polished effect, so the Q&A today was more corporate in format and finish than in preceding years.

Corporate means firstly no surprises. The audience in the auditorium was better dressed and better behaved than in years past. We had no loudmouths like Ksenia Sobchak a couple of years ago abusing their invitation to sound off against the Putin regime.

The one easily identifiable critic from a Moscow radio station who was given the microphone was restrained and posed his question in rather oblique language: in plain text he was asking about the branding of the opposition as traitors by Chechnya boss Ramzan Kadyrov. And he nodded assent, when Vladimir Putin diplomatically reminded him of where Kadyrov came from, what his life path and been, and urged that his verbal outbursts not be given undue weight.

The well behaved and well turned out audience this time held no banners and wore no funny hats to draw the President’s attention to the outlying regions from which they had come for this event. Instead, television crews were prepositioned in Tomsk, on the Kerch bridge construction site of the Crimea, on Sakhalin, and one or two other remote sites. The provincials were both well vetted and kept to business like questions, instead of the traditional appeals the President to visit them and share some dumplings over lunch.

Putin was visibly relaxed, though as always he was exceedingly well prepared with statistics on the tip of his tongue, able to answer questions about every imaginable aspect of government policy, economic forecasts, the international political situation. At the same time, his sense of humor and amusing use of Russian folk terms livened up what could otherwise be a dull session.

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