Ten questions Putin won’t be answering during his televised Q&A tomorrow
Tomorrow sees the return of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s famous televised question and answer session, his first since he was re-elected president in March last year.
It’s a fairly big deal, a chunky news story both in Russia and to some extent outside, having grown into something of a media “event” since Putin starting doing them as president in 2001.
To judge by some of the advance reporting of this year’s Q/A, in some quarters there’s a kind of nerdish journalistic cult around the minutiae of past Q/As. Do you want to know the record length of time a Putin Q/A session has lasted? Well, that was in 2011, when it went on for four hours and 33 minutes. How about the most questions Mr P has answered? OK, that was 90, also in 2011. And the highest number of questions submitted? Right, that was more than two million, back in 2009. Want another key fact? Apparently, this week 2,718 people a minute have been phoning in with a question, and 73% of them were making calls from their mobiles. For more fascinating facts of this nature - go here.
A tough gig, then? Well, kind of. Because in fact Putin gets moderated questions handed over to him in advance. The Kremlin has set up a hotline and internet site for the submission of questions - running since Sunday - and, as the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explains, “The questions will be processed, generalised and handed over to Putin”. Hmm, processed. It’s hardly Question Time is it?
The Voice of Russia reports that in addition to pre-moderated questions, Putin “usually selects online ones all by himself” (I do like that “all by himself” …), but either way it’s an undeniably interesting event. The ITAR-TASS news agency says Putin “will be answering questions of interest to the general public concerning socio-political and socio-economic affairs.” Well, I’m not a Russian citizen but I nevertheless have a few questions for him. I’d like to imagine he’d have a go at some of these if they come up among the two-million-odd questions he’s likely to be sent this week, but somehow I doubt it. So here are my ten questions I think Vladimir Putin won’t be answering during the Q/A tomorrow …
Dear Mr President:
1: Do you see anything abnormal about a court in Russia putting a dead man on trial?
2: Are you still of the view that Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot “got what they deserved”?
3: Do you support the prosecutor’s office’s intention of mounting "inspections of thousands of NGOs" across Russia?
4: When you signed the “foreign agents” law (Federal Law no.212-FZ) were you trying to muzzle human rights organisations?
5: Do you think enough has been done to catch those behind the murder of Anna Politkovskya?
6: Why is Russia blocking efforts at the United Nations to take action over alleged crimes against humanity committed by member of the Syrian government?
7: Do you support the bill proposing the banning of “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” currently going through the State Duma?
8: Is the draft “blasphemy law” a reaction to the Pussy Riot case?
9: Are Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev prisoners of conscience?
10: Have you read the new Amnesty report on Russia?
Ha! I’ve thrown in the almost-obligatory trick question at the end there. Because Freedom Under Threat: The clampdown on freedoms of expression, assembly and association in Russia is 68 pages long and is only out today. So, in fairness I doubt a busy man like Mr Putin will have had time to get through it before his big day tomorrow. Then again, maybe he can skim-read a few pages. We’re told that Putin has been busily mugging up all week - “reading reports, provided by ministries and executive agencies”. So who knows. I’ll say this: if he does read the Amnesty report he’ll definitely have quite a few of the answers to my top ten questions.
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