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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin to Host Call-In Show in Days

President Vladimir Putin will host a televised call-in show in a few days, and he is expected to use the event to readdress speculation that he might stay for a third term and to tout a multibillion-dollar boost to social spending.

"The presidential administration is sorting out the last details for the call-in show and will then set a date for it," a Kremlin spokeswoman said Wednesday, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. "The plans are for the president to answer to the people before the end of this month."

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, citing Kremlin sources, said the show was scheduled for Tuesday.

The live shows, which Putin initiated in 2001 as a means to connect with ordinary people, have taken place in December in past years. Putin has also held nearly annual news conferences in the Kremlin each summer at the end of the political year.

After Putin was sworn in for a second term in May 2004, the presidential administration decided to hold a news conference with journalists in December and push the call-in show forward to June 2005, the Kremlin spokeswoman said.

"But because of Putin's busy schedule, they had to defer the show to early fall," she said.

Putin used his last call-in show, in December 2003, to announce his bid for re-election. This year, political analysts said, he will probably use the opportunity to speak about whether he wants to remain in power for another term and to discuss his recent announcement to spend an extra 115 billion rubles ($4 billion) on education, health care, housing and agriculture over the next few years.

Calls and e-mailed questions have been carefully screened before reaching Putin in past shows.

"People will probably ask the president to stay in power and not to leave. He will, of course, reiterate that he is not planning to run because that would be against the Constitution," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, the president of the Panorama think tank.

Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with the Indem think tank, said Putin would have to address the question of his political future because it was an issue being discussed in the Kremlin.

He said that Putin "understands that in politics it is very important to leave on time" and does not want to stay but that many in the Kremlin are interested in a third term for Putin.

"The present regime is very unlikely to allow him to retire," Korgunyuk said. "This regime is relying on Putin's popularity, and if Putin leaves the Kremlin, it will be the end of the regime.

"I'm sure that during the televised show people will directly ask him to stay. This is a way for the Kremlin to sound out public opinion once again," he said.

Putin reiterated to a group of visiting foreign policy experts earlier this month that he would not seek to change the Constitution to remain in office.

But he said at a news conference in Finland in August that he would like to stay if the Constitution allowed it.

Last Friday, he drew laughter in Washington when a reporter noted that his and U.S. President George W. Bush's terms would both end in 2008, The New York Times reported. "Are they already firing us?" Putin asked. "We still want to work."

People have quizzed the president about social problems in all of his previous call-in shows, and this year will not be an exception -- especially since it comes weeks after Putin promised the extra 115 billion rubles to, among other things, increase salaries for teachers and doctors and raise subsidies for rural communities.

"The Kremlin is planning to spend 115 billon rubles on social reforms -- a big present to the people -- and I think the issue will appear in the show," said Nikolai Petrov, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

"How can he pass up on such an opportunity to talk about the increase in social expenditures?" Korgunyuk said.

"Callers will complain to the president about their small wages and pensions, and the president will calm them down by saying that the Kremlin is thinking about them."

He and the other analysts said the Kremlin was particularly interested in touting the social plans after its reform to monetize benefits was poorly implemented and prompted a wave of street protests early this year.

As in past years, the call-in show will be broadcast on state-run Channel One and Rossia television as well as on state-owned Mayak radio. Television cameras will be set up in cities across the country so that people "will get the chance to ask their president a question live" on the air, the Kremlin spokeswoman said.

In addition, the presidential administration is again opening a call center to collect additional questions and it will also be accepting questions by e-mail, she said.

A total of 1.53 million questions were submitted to the broadcast in 2003. Putin answered 68 over 2 1/2 hours.