Tough Putin fails to answer Russia's problems: press
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lived up to his reputation as Russia's strongman in a stern phone-in but failed to come up with concrete solutions for its mounting problems, the press said Friday.
The two-term president turned prime minister staged his longest annual televised talk with the people on Thursday, lasting a marathon four and a half hours, with Putin handling 90 questions in all.
But the liberal press and even the usually pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta noted two million questions had poured in for Putin, with Russians hoping he could help them resolve problems local bosses often simply ignore.
"The questions were more important than the answers," the respected Vedomosti business daily said.
"What we saw on state television during one of the most important air times of the year was a fairly pessimistic picture of the country's condition."
Rossiyskaya Gazeta admitted that little appears to have changed in Russia since Putin was elected to his promise-filled first term as president in 2000.
"Vladimir Putin's phone-in takes place every year, but citizens' questions keep piling up," the state-controlled daily said.
The former KGB agent, who has staged the sessions for almost a decade, uses the phone-in to showcase his commanding style, issuing immediate orders to regional officials and displaying an unusual awareness of household concerns.
He has since carried this tradition into the Dmitry Medvedev presidency, with the Kremlin chief delivering formal addresses and Putin answering calls once a year on live TV.
He appeared in particularly combative mood this year, lashing out at the sidelined liberal opposition and commenting on the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's jailed former richest man, by saying that a "thief must be in prison".
"It was clear that Vladimir Putin decided to turn the phone-in into a demonstration of the strength of a power which is not going to be stopped by anything," wrote the daily Kommersant.
"During the four-and-a-half hours, Vladimir Putin was more threatening and even aggressive than usually in phone-ins," said its prominent journalist Andrei Kolesnikov, who has written a biography of the Russian strongman.
Vedomosti observed that Thursday's appearance highlighted the difference between Putin and his presidential successor Medvedev, who has championed causes supported by the country's small liberal forces.
"The prime minister... made a number of statements that either contradict Medvedev's policies or do not take them into account," the business daily said.
"For example, when answering a question about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Putin was speaking in the present tense," Vedomosti said.
"But President Dmitry Medvedev has said that it was inadmissible for official to talk about the Khodorkovsky trial."
© 2010 AFP