Slams US Again

MOSCOW — Sporting a tie, crisp white shirt and perched behind a desk like a friendly but serious news anchor, Russian President Vladimir Putin fielded questions for almost four hours Thursday in his annual marathon call-in show, discussing topics as far afield as illegal sports drugs, Ukraine, potholes, and Washington's "imperial ambitions."

Putin, looking relaxed and engaged, frequently made notes and waved a pen in his right hand for emphasis. 

Speaking before a live audience, the Russian leader sat in front of a blue screen swimming with the Kremlin email address, website and text number.

At one point, the moderator for the highly scripted reality show said they had received more than 3 million calls.

The Russian leader uses the annual call-in show to project an image as a strong leader who protects Russia from foreign threats and cares about people’s needs. In some cases, the complaints seemed to get immediate action.

Just minutes after a resident of Sakhalin named Tatyana asked about wage arrears at the fishing cannery where she worked, regional prosecutors reported that they were investigating the company owner, according to Life News.

And just minutes after a woman complained to Putin of bad roads in her home city of Omsk via video chat, showing the president a dirty, uneven street in the center of town, local officials vowed to rebuild the road by May 1.

As often the case with his shows, Putin also used the occasion to give a rare peak into his personal life.

Asked if he ever swore off camera, the Russian president said, "Only at myself," He then added, reluctantly, "Do I ever swear at subordinates? Yes, but again it’s because I’m angry at myself."

He deflected a question about whether he was planning to remarry. 

“[Let’s hope the question you raised] doesn’t influence the currency exchange rate or oil prices,” he joked. “Seriously, people elect… the president to work.” 

Putin said he sees relations with his ex-wife, Lyudmila Putina, as even better since they got divorced in 2014 and that they see each other sometimes.

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