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'Don’t run for another term': Vladimir Putin confronted by critical texts at end-of-year news conference
14 December 2023, 12:09
Text messages critical of Vladimir Putin have been displayed at the Russian president’s end-of-year press conference in an apparent gaffe by the organisers.
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One read: “Mr President, when will the real Russia be the same as the one on TV?”
Another asked “Why is your ‘reality’ at odds with our lived reality?”.
A third text message urged him: “Don’t run for another term as president."
“This question won’t be shown,” added a fourth. “I’d like to know, when will our president pay attention to his own country? We’ve got no education, no healthcare. The abyss lies ahead...”
Mr Putin has not responded to any of the text messages, which appear to have been sent in by members of the public.
At the press conference, he ruled out a second mobilisation of troops, saying there were currently 617,000 troops currently in Ukraine.
“The front line is over 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles) long,” he told his press conference and phone-in marathon.
“There are 617,000 people in the conflict zone.”
He also apologised to the Russian people when asked by a pensioner why the cost of living had gone up so much - specifically the price of eggs.
He said: ““I am very sorry, please accept my apologies for that,” he said, adding that imports from Turkey and Belarus would increase supply and reduce prices.
“I am very happy to eat them, sunny side up,” he added. “I could eat a dozen of them at breakfast.”
Mr Putin was greeted with applause as he arrived in the hall in central Moscow, a short distance from the Kremlin.
This year, ordinary citizens were given the chance to phone in questions along with those asked by journalists, and Russians have been submitting questions for Mr Putin for two weeks.
Mr Putin, who has held power for nearly 24 years, said last week that he is running for re-election in March. Last year, he did not hold his usual call-in show with ordinary Russians or his traditional session with reporters.
In addition, his annual state-of-the-nation address was delayed until February of this year. His last news conference was in 2021 amid US warnings that Russia was on the brink of sending troops into Ukraine.
Mr Putin has heavily limited his interaction with the foreign media since the fighting began but international journalists were invited this year.
With the future of western aid to Ukraine in doubt and another winter of fighting looming, neither side has managed to make significant battlefield gains recently. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to Washington on Tuesday and made an impassioned plea for more US aid and weaponry.
Mr Putin's appearance is primarily aimed at a domestic audience and will be a chance for him to personally resolve the problems of ordinary Russian citizens and reinforce his grip on power ahead of the March 17 election.
State media said that as of Wednesday, about two million questions for Mr Putin had been submitted ahead of the broadcast, which is heavily choreographed and more about spectacle than scrutiny.