Putin's Annual 'Direct Line' Call-In With Russians Delayed

Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual "direct line" call-in with Russia's citizens has been delayed and will not now take place in June as expected, a Kremlin spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday.

Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters in Moscow that the event will not occur earlier than July this year, according to Russian state-owned news agency TASS.

The Russian president has held the annual call-in show for all but three years since it began in 2001. It has frequently taken place in June, including last year when Putin fielded Russians' questions on June 30.

Peskov was asked if Putin would be speaking to people in Ukraine's Donbas region during the call-in, and he told reporters that was not the case. Donbas is currently the scene of intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

"A direct line cannot take place this month. And, accordingly, the second part of what you said cannot happen either," Peskov said, referring to the question about the Donbas residents.

Peskov said the timing "has not yet been determined" but that "routine preparations are underway."

"Both from a technical and substantive point of view. This is a very complex, voluminous event. Therefore, routine preparations are underway, but it will enter the final stage after the deadlines are set," the Kremlin spokesperson said.

Putin uses his annual call-in event to directly answer Russians' questions about a variety of issues related to his government's policies. Questions are provided via phone calls and messages.

The event was held in June 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021, while it had been held in April 2016, per Reuters. The call-in did not take place in 2020 and there was speculation that the COVID-19 pandemic was the reason for the cancelation, the Guardian reported.

Putin holds the event in front of a live studio audience of journalists, the president's supporters, and officials.

Peskov suggested on Wednesday that this year's phone-in will take place, though he did not provide a timeframe.

The news comes amid heavy fighting in the city of Severodonetsk in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, per the Guardian, where much of the conflict amid the ongoing Russian invasion is currently concentrated.

The U.K.'s Ministry of Defence reported on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces have taken back control of a key area of land along a river bank in the Kherson region of the country.

During his call-in last year, reported Reuters, Putin criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and claimed Ukraine was under the control of foreign governments.

"Why should I meet with Zelensky if he has given up his country to full external control? Vital issues for Ukraine are not resolved in Kyiv, but in Washington and partly in Berlin and Paris," Putin said.

"What is there to discuss? I'm not refusing [to meet Zelensky], I just need to understand what to talk about," he said.

Russia went on to announce a "special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The invasion has now lasted more than 100 days.

Vladimir Putin Speaks to School Students
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers an address to the participants of the Bolshaya Peremena All-Russian contest for school students via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on June 1, 2022. Putin's annual call-in event will not take place in June as expected. MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images