There he is dressed in his best everyman outfit, a light blue shirt and grey windbreaker. He impatiently taps his fingers on a table and glares out at his audience. "Why does everybody scurry around like cockroaches whenever I show up?"
And there he is again, reassuring nervous auto workers and greeting farmers. And look! There he is scolding bureaucrats.
It's that time of year again -- time for Vladimir Putin's annual live question and answer session with carefully screened and meticulously vetted ordinary citizens.
And to make sure nobody forgets to tune in Thursday December 3 at noon Moscow time, Russian television has produced this slick campaign-style advertisement
portraying Putin as a tough, no-nonsense -- although sometimes wisecracking -- man of action and man of the people.
According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta
," the session will focus mainly on economically troubled "mono-cities" that are dependent on single industries.
One video link will be set up with the city of Pikalyovo
, where the troubled BazEl Cement company recently announced it might be forced to stop production. Pikalevo made headlines in May when residents, angry about unpaid back wages, stormed the mayors office and blocked a federal highway.
In an attempt to cast himself as the town's savior, Putin showed up in June and publicly dressed down BazEl's main owner, Oleg Deripaska, and the wage arrears were quickly paid out (Putin's comments about people scurrying like cockroaches, featured prominently in the Russian TV ad, were made during his visit to Pikalyovo).
Studios will also reportedly be set up in Tolyatti
, home of the troubled AvtoVaz car manufacturer; in Sayano-Shushenskaya
, where a massive explosion at a hydro-electric plant in August killed 75 people; and in Vladivostok
, where large demonstrations against an auto-import tax spooked
There will also, no doubt, be plenty of staged cutesy moments, like the exchange during last year's program
when a little girl from the Buryat Republic in Siberia called in and asked Putin for a Cinderella dress for New Year's Eve -- and got an invitation to the Kremlin.
The Power Vertical be watching the whole thing on Thursday (last year, it was a three-hour marathon), and will post a recap when its over.
-- Brian Whitmore