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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President to Tackle Wages on TV Show

Itar-TassTelephone operators fielding questions in advance of President Vladimir Putin's live Q&A session on Wednesday.
The minimum wage, affordable housing and other bread-and-butter issues are likely to top Wednesday's televised question-and-answer session with President Vladimir Putin.

Almost 1.4 million questions had poured in via e-mail, phone and text message by Tuesday evening for the president's fifth such show.

The show, a rare opportunity for Russians to speak directly with Putin, will be broadcast at noon on state-run Channel One, Rossia and Vesti 24 television channels.

Putin appears to enjoy the live sessions. "This is a very good format," he said at the end of last year's show, on Sept. 27. "It provides an opportunity to address problems that worry people. It is a good reference point for practical work."

According to a Kremlin web site created for the television show, www.president-line.ru, many questions also deal with Russian-Georgian relations, student stipends and high mortgage rates.

The minimum wage is slated to jump next year to 2,000 rubles ($74.40)

per month from the current 1,100 rubles.

Buying a home costs more than $400 per square meter on average across the country; mortgage rates have hovered between 10 percent to 13 percent this year.

Kremlin-connected political analyst Sergei Markov said that more important than what questions Russians pose to their president is what questions the president chooses to answer.

Putin selects some questions, as do employees of Channel One and Rossia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov added that some questions are posed to Putin live, without any screening.

Markov speculated ethnic tension, the country's shrinking population and efforts to boost the country's healthcare, housing and agriculture were also likely to come up during the show.

"Questions that highlight popular decisions by the government will be aired," he said.

For instance, a bill on gambling, which is expected to reduce the number of casinos, could be addressed, Markov said.

Another analyst, Alexei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies, said Georgia, Iran and North Korea are of concern to Russians living close to those countries.

Makarkin also predicted that more personal, human-interest questions -- for example, how Putin spends his vacation -- would also be aired to boost the show's entertainment value.

In July, Putin held a 130-minute question-and-answer session online, answering some of the more than 150,000 questions sent to him.

The session was hosted by the popular search engine Yandex and the BBC.

While the Internet audience is composed mainly of younger, middle-class Russians, Wednesday's television show will be watched by a cross-section of the entire country, Makarkin said.

The call-in show fills a void in Russian political life, Markov added. Parties and the news media -- traditional channels of communication between the government and the governed -- tend to be ineffective in Russia, he explained.

After each one of the televised call-in shows, Putin's approval ratings have jumped, Makarkin added, because "he says what people want to hear."

A Levada Center poll released this month found 77 percent of Russians approved of the job Putin is doing.