Staunton, June 19 – More than a million Russians – nearly one percent of the population -- have sent in questions for Vladimir Putin’s “direct line” program tomorrow (sovsekretno.ru/news/rossiyane-otpravili-bolee-milliona-vopros-na-pryamuyu-liniyu-s-putinym/). That allows him and his staff to be highly selective in what queries he will respond to.
In the past, the Kremlin leader has used such occasions to reinforce his status as the good tsar who can intervene and correct the mistakes of the bad boyars; and there will certainly be examples of this given that many of the appeals request him to do just that (e.g., idelreal.org/a/30008089.html, idelreal.org/a/30008131.html and business-gazeta.ru/article/428405).
But in the current environment where his support in the population is clearly ebbing (censoru.net/36469-putinskij-rezhim-slabeet-na-glazah.html), Putin’s effort to continue to portray himself as sufficiently powerful to assume responsibility for everything could backfire, regardless of the carefully selected questions he will chose to answer.
On the one hand, many Russians may dismiss this as simply the latest “political show.” And on the other, it is entirely likely that many will view any steps Putin does make to try to address the problems of the country as a measure of how many problems he has not addressed and even bears primary responsibility for.
To the extent they make such reflections, this show may not work as intended but instead further inflame the anger of many who are suffering from policies that have Putin’s name on them. And if that happens, they may decide that there really should be a genuine “direct line” between their anger and Putin himself.
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