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Live Blog: Putin's Annual Call-In Show

Russian President Vladimir Putin fielded questions on June 7 from across the country in an annual call-in show that lasted for more than four hours, one of a handful of live performances he holds every year to burnish his image.


Elderly women watch a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual question-and-answer session in the village of Yelna, Ivanovo region, on June 7.

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-- Russian President Vladimir Putin painted an upbeat picture of the country's economy and accused the West of seeking to thwart its progress, setting a familiar tone for his new term in a marathon call-in show broadcast live on state TV.

-- The Direct Line broadcast on June 7 came a month after Putin was sworn in to a new six-year term following a landslide election that foes said was marred by fraud and international observers said did not present voters with a genuine choice.

-- The event was closely choreographed, with Putin fielding selected questions from among more than a million submitted and sending signals about an array of domestic and foreign policy issues.

*NOTE: Times are stated according to local time in Moscow (GMT/UTC +3)

16:14 7.6.2018

Next question is from St. Petersburg from a military hospital. Question comes from a woman who lost her leg and part of one arm during a bombing in Aleppo, Syria, two years ago. Her artificial leg sits on the bed next to her. The woman expresses her gratitude to Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and the Russian military. She has Ukrainian citizenship and asks Putin to give her Russian citizenship so that she can invite her family to visit her and get access to the latest artificial limbs.

16:10 7.6.2018

Putin expresses sympathy and says there is a government program for development of rural schools. Then Putin hands the question over to the acting governor of Altai Krai, Viktor Tomenko, ordering him to help the villagers to save their school. Tomenko says there are no plans to close the school, despite what the residents have heard. Tomenko reads from some notes and looks down all the time. Says the village and the school have a future. Putin says he hopes the response will please the villagers, but doesn't actually ask them if it did.

16:10 7.6.2018

And some recognition from the Moscow correspondent of the LA Times:

16:08 7.6.2018

Some praise for Putin's endurance from the Kremlin-loyal journalist and television host Vladimir Solovyov: "Four hours already. No signs of fatigue whatsoever."

16:06 7.6.2018

Next question comes from a village on the border with Mongolia with just 400 residents. School in the village is dilapidated and officials want to close it. Several locals point out that if the school is closed, people will leave the village. The governor of Altai Krai is listening with an annoyed expression as if he doesn't realize he is on-screen. His desk is also small and covered with papers. Nothing hangs on his wall.

16:04 7.6.2018

Some background on Oleh Sentsov, the Ukrainian filmmaker currently on a hunger strike in a Russian prison. Putin indicated today he wouldn't exchange Sentsov for Russian state-media editor Kirill Vyshinsky, who is currently arrested in Ukraine on suspicion of "treason."

16:03 7.6.2018

Education Minister Vasilyeva sits at a small, crowded table with a huge chair. Only decoration in her office is a Russian flag. Putin looks bored. Moderator again interrupts Vasilyeva and makes her stop talking.

16:00 7.6.2018

Next a teenager asks about the state system for standardized graduation tests. Says there are too many of them and it is hard to prepare for them properly. Putin punts the question to Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva, who begins with a bunch of statistics about how many students are taking exams and so on and so on and so on.

15:59 7.6.2018

We are now at the four-hour mark for this year's Direct Line. If history is any guide, they should be winding things up relatively soon.

15:57 7.6.2018

Moderator reads an SMS question about whether Putin would agree to exchange Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, arrested in Ukriane on suspicion of "treason," for Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, imprisoned in Russia on a terrorism conviction that supporters say was trumped up. Putin says it is outrageous to trade a "journalist" for a "terrorist." But says the fate of such exchanges depends on the authorities in Kyiv.

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