MOSCOW, April 25 (RIA Novosti) – Vladimir Putin’s live QA sessions with the Russian public reveal a new cast of heroes and anti-heroes each year. The heroes get to ask questions on hot topics. The anti-heroes have to do the answering.
Fifth-grader Dima, Dr. Ivan Khrenov, Igor Kholmanskikh from Uralvagonzavod, vacationer Sergei Katanandov, Governor Sergei Darkin, and TV anchor Tina Kandelaki, to name a few, have played these roles over the years.
How a Schoolboy Ousted a Mayor
During the first of Putin’s live broadcasts, held on December 24, 2001, a fifth-grader named Dima from Ust Kut, Irkutsk Region, phoned in. His school had no heating, forcing administrators to cancel classes. School students feared they would have to repeat the year.
Putin responded, “The governor can hear us and will do everything to reopen schools as soon as possible.”
The following day Irkutsk Region Deputy Governor Sergei Brilka told the whole country that Dima’s school, Ust Kut School №4, would have its heating system fixed and classes would resume by January 7.
The mayor of Ust Kut, Yevgeny Korneiko, later resigned, citing health reasons. But sources in the city administration told the media that he stepped down following a series of accidents at the city’s heating plants.
His successors apparently did not learn from his example. A year later another resident of Ust Kut complained to the president that “things have only gotten worse after the mayor quit – two weeks ago an 82 year-old war veteran froze to death in his apartment.”
“Is a forceful reprimand required every year to get anything done?” he asked.
Putin told the governor this was unacceptable and demanded an investigation into the veteran’s death.
When Putin Calls – Answer
During the broadcast on October 25, 2006, the director of a youth art center in Kondopoga, Karelia, Tatyana Konashkova, told Putin about a massive brawl that took place in her city. She questioned the point of having “feeble” local authorities that are so clearly unable to protect citizens.
Putin agreed with her sentiment, and said that he had tried repeatedly to contact Sergei Katanandov, the head of the local government in Karelia.
“He must be on a plane or something. He’s currently on vacation, but we’ll have a serious conversation about this,” the president added.
Five days later, Katanandov apologized to Putin. He explained that he had indeed been on vacation and his subordinates did not promptly inform him of the calls. He tendered his resignation in June 2010 before the end of his term.
During the QA on December 16, 2010, Dr. Ivan Khrenov, a cardiologist at a hospital in Ivanovo, told then-prime minister Putin that the impressive display the hospital put on for his visit in November was a sham: doctors and nurses were ordered to pose as recovering patients, and high-tech equipment was borrowed from other hospitals.
While a commission appointed by the Healthcare Ministry found no evidence to support the doctor’s story, the case prompted heated debate in the media and a broad public response.
Several heads of hospitals were dismissed after an investigation by the Ivanovo Region government uncovered numerous violations in the region’s healthcare system. With the help of prominent pediatrician Leonid Roshal, Khrenov was able to take professional development courses in cardiology at the Russian Medical Academy of Post-Graduate Education in Moscow.
The scandal turned Khrenov into a local celebrity and earned him many new patients.
From Manager to Presidential Envoy
Igor Kholmanskikh, a production floor manager at Uralvagonzavod, a machine building plant in the Urals, became a household name in Russia after the QA in December 2011, when he offered to come to Moscow “with some guys” to break up the rallies against the Duma election results.
On May 10, 2012 Putin visited the Urals, his first trip after his second inauguration on May 7. Before departing for Yekaterinburg, Putin invited Kholmanskikh to join him on his plane and discuss the working and living conditions of the plant’s employees. On May 21, Putin appointed him presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District.
Another highlight of the December 2011 broadcast was the businessman from Vladivostok who complained to then Prime Minister Putin about the rampant corruption in the Primorye Territory and lashed out at Governor Sergei Darkin. Putin promised to look into his complaints about the governor, and said that, in addition to corruption, the crime rate in the territory was the highest in the country.
Putin noted that there are socioeconomic criteria for evaluating the performance of regional authorities, but added that other information should also be considered.
On February 28, 2012 then president Dmitry Medvedev accepted Darkin’s letter of resignation. On July 19 he was appointed deputy minister of regional development.
TV Anchor Misses Out on Ministerial Position
When someone suggested during a QA session in 2011 that TV anchor Tina Kandelaki should be appointed minister of science and education, Putin said: “Tina may be very talented – I don’t know all of her talents – and she is an interesting and outstanding woman. But a minister – especially for such an important ministry – must have managerial experience and other relevant work experience. I doubt Tina has the necessary experience…”
Kandelaki is a vocal critic of the Russian education system. At one of Medvedev’s meetings with supporters in late October 2011, she suggested that Russia needs a new education strategy. She thinks one of the main problems of the current system is that university graduates do not find work in their fields.
Since February 2013, Kandelaki has hosted the new political show Iron Ladies on NTV.
Kudrin Quits his Position but not the Team
During the same broadcast, Putin was asked about Alexei Kudrin.
“Alexei Kudrin never left my team” he said. “He is my long-time compañero and friend.”
“We don’t agree on some issues, but these are not core issues,” he added.
Kudrin headed the Ministry of Finance for almost 11 years. In the fall of 2011, he was dismissed after sparring with President Medvedev over key issues of fiscal policy, particularly defense spending. On April 5, 2012 Kudrin launched the Civil Initiatives Committee, which includes 35 prominent public figures, politicians and journalists.
Since 2011 Kudrin has been the dean of the department of arts and sciences at St. Petersburg State University.
No Best Wishes for Prokhorov
Speaking about Mikhail Prokhorov’s intention to run for president, Putin said in 2011: “I won’t say I wish him success because I also plan to run for president, but I’m confident that he will be a worthy and strong rival.” According to the final tally reported by the Central Election Committee, Prokhorov received 7.98% of the vote, placing him third in the 2012 presidential election.