Thursday, December 4, 2008

If Things Go Wrong In Russia, Who Will Take The Blame?

By Vitaliy Portnikov | December 04, 2008

"Lenin answers all questions." For Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, these words from a poem every Soviet schoolchild read are not an abstraction.

Each year during his presidency, Putin answered questions put to him by viewers of federal television, questions phoned in by viewers along with some posed by people who gathered at specially prepared regional centers.

Some moments from these telecasts have become the stuff of humor. One year a girl from the Far Eastern city of Birobidzhan called and told Putin there was no real New Year's tree in her city's main square. In truth, there was already a tree there, but local authorities -- having heard Putin promise to rectify the matter -- rushed to put up another one. That year, Birobidzhan had two trees -- one from the governor and one from the president.

This year's performance was interesting because it was Putin's first as prime minister. There had been some speculation about whether President Dmitry Medvedev might inherit this tradition from Putin. By hanging on to it, even if it was only broadcast on one of the country's national television networks instead of on all of them as in past years, Putin seems to be asserting visibly that he is still setting the tone for the country's leadership.

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