Vladimir Putin's Televised 'Ask Me Anything' Still Going Ahead— Kremlin

The annual televised event in which Vladimir Putin answers questions from the Russian public is going ahead this year, the Kremlin has said.

It means that the Russian president is likely to be addressing questions from citizens as his war in Ukraine rages on and people feel the pinch of tough international sanctions.

A Direct Line with Putin has been held every year since 2001 and sees people across Russia's 11 time zones ask their leader questions on politics, economics and even his personal life.

While it purports to be an open forum, the event is carefully stage-managed and the questions, which come via email, phone, text and live video, are believed to have been vetted in advance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
The Kremlin has said that the annual televised phone-in with the country's citizens "Direct Line with Vladimir Putin" will go ahead this year. In this photo Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen during last year's phone-in at Moscow's World Trade Center studio on June 30, 2021. SERGEI SAVOSTYANOV/Getty Images

The number of questions from foreign news outlets has dwindled in recent years. The crackdown on independent and foreign media outlets in the last year also means that dissenting voices or questions from international journalists are unlikely this year.

The program has taken place every year except for 2004 and 2012. News agency Tass reported that the number of questions submitted rose from 400,000 in 2001 to more than 3.25 million in 2016. There were around 2 million last year.

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "preliminary preparations" were underway for the event although "the date is yet to be set," according to Tass.

Peskov said that there would be no link between the program and Putin's annual state of the nation address to the Russian parliament and the Federal Assembly.

In 2021 Direct Line was broadcast live on June 30 by TV channels Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, Channel One, NTV, Public Television of Russia and Mir, as well as a number of state-backed radio stations.

However, the world has changed a lot since then. In the months that followed, there was a build up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine before an invasion was launched on February 24. Also, Russia has been isolated from the global financial system and faced tough U.S. and EU-led sanctions.

During last year's broadcast, when asked if he would meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Putin said, "Ukrainians and Russians are a single people." It prompted Kyiv to respond that they were part of "two separate nations" and Putin's comment was a harbinger for the war to come.

Putin also used the phone-in to accuse the U.S. and the U.K of a "provocation" in the Black Sea that month in which Moscow said it fired warning shots and dropped bombs to deter the British Navy destroyer HMS Defender as it sailed past Crimea.

"The period of the uni-polar world is gone, and you must operate on the premise that the world is changing, and doing so rapidly," Putin said.