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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Prepares for Media Madness

When President Vladimir Putin steps into the Kremlin's Round Hall on Thursday for his sixth annual televised news conference, he will come face to face with a record 1,113 journalists.

Just over one year remains before Putin is scheduled to leave office, and analysts predict that the usually guarded president might share his views on the domestic political situation, but that he will sidestep questions about his possible successor.

"It's too early to get into the campaign mood, but it's easy to predict that someone will ask the president whom he would like to see take over in 2008," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.

Peskov said Putin "prepares meticulously for this news conference, reviewing updated information about every aspect of life in Russia."

In previous years, Putin has impressed his audience by reeling off a wide range of statistics about Russia as well as other countries.

The news conference, which begins at noon Thursday, will be broadcast live on Channel One and Rossia television.

Since 2001, when Putin met with 400 journalists, the annual Kremlin news conference has offered regional and foreign journalists their best chance to pose a question to the president.

Last year, the event lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours, and was attended by more than 1,000 reporters. Putin fielded 63 questions, 14 of which came from foreign correspondents.

In his annual address to the parliament, Putin's primary audience is the government and his own administration. In his televised call-in shows the president reaches out to the public at large.

Analysts say his Kremlin news conference is aimed at the politically active intelligentsia both here and abroad.

"The foreign press corps will be pushing Putin to reveal his plans for the future of the political system, or at least to drop a few hints," said Dmitry Badovsky of the Institute of Social Systems at Moscow State University.

In recent years, Putin has cultivated an air of uncertainty regarding the country's political future, but in his final year in office, this approach will begin to damage his image abroad, Badovsky said.

"The West wants to know what the rules of the game will be after Putin," he said.

Dmitry Oreshkin, an analyst with the Merkator think tank, said Putin would focus on the relatively robust economy and on improving the country's deteriorating image abroad.

"I expect strong, assertive statements about the polonium scandal, energy security and Russia's relations with Belarus and Georgia," Oreshkin said.

Russia's image in the West has been tarnished in the last year by allegations of Kremlin involvement in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, economic sanctions against Georgia and a dispute with Belarus over natural gas prices.