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Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) holds his annual televised phone-in with the nation in Moscow on June 20.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) holds his annual televised phone-in with the nation in Moscow on June 20.

Live Blog: Putin Takes Questions In Annual Call-In

-- President Vladimir Putin has faced a slew of critical questions during his annual call-in television program, Direct Line, reflecting a rise in public discontent over the handling of Russia's stagnant economy and the drop in approval ratings for the longtime leader.

-- Choreographed to portray the president as a benevolent leader who cares about the plight of ordinary Russians, the rare yearly public performance allows Putin to shift blame for much of the country's ills to local officials.

-- For the 2019 session, millions of Russians nationwide were invited to pose questions that will be selected for the live broadcast. Usually, the hand-picked questions that Putin answers are about domestic issues.

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

16:30 20.6.2019

This concludes RFE/RL's live blog coverage of Putin's Direct Line program.

16:17 20.6.2019

Moderators bring the Direct Line to an end and Putin thanks everyone for their help. Four hours and nine minutes.

16:16 20.6.2019

They ask if he is ever ashamed. "That is a serious question," he says. "Of course I am, like any person." He recalls an episode in the early 2000s when "the situation was very difficult." Says he ran into an elderly woman late one evening who fell on her knees in front of him and gave him a note, begging for help. (Putin begins to choke up.) Putin says he gave the note to an aide but it was lost and he never read it. He said he has received many such notes over the years, but he is ashamed that he never learned what that woman needed. Putin nearly cries as he recalls the story.

16:14 20.6.2019

They ask if he is tired of being president. "No, otherwise I wouldn't have run for another term," he says.

16:12 20.6.2019

They ask him "what is the main problem facing Russia." Putin says the main problem is to improve labor productivity and, on that basis, transform the economy.

16:10 20.6.2019

They ask Putin to tell a joke about himself. He says that he has heard many, but declines to tell one.

16:06 20.6.2019

​Putin took a swipe at Pavel Grudinin, the Communist Party politician who ran a surprisingly feisty presidential campaign in the election last year that handed Putin another six-years in office. Asked whether he might be prepared to appoint Grudinin as his prime minister, Putin suggested the politician's foreign bank accounts preclude him from the job.


16:06 20.6.2019

Now they are showing the governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai, who has rushed out to the region of Krasnoyarsk that has no schools and is now meeting with locals, as Putin ordered him to do. They show governor talking and people listening.

16:04 20.6.2019

On military spending:

"We are the only great military power in the world that is scaling down its military spending.... Despite our small military expenses, we not only managed to secure military and nuclear parity but also are two-three steps ahead of our competitors. Because there is no other country in the world that has such technologically highly advanced weapons as we have, I mean our hypersonic missiles complex."

16:03 20.6.2019

Moderator notes the Direct Line has already been going for four hours.

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