Every year, Russian President Vladimir Putin stars in a big show, an hours-long televised question-and-answer marathon in which the president hears the people's complaints, promises to tackle their problems and explains his views on a wide range of subjects. With more than a million questions submitted, organizers can choose carefully. But there was a hitch with this year's annual extravaganza. On Thursday, somehow, the wrong questions got on the air—like one that flashed on the screen, "Only one question: When will you go away?"
To many Americans incensed by Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election and by President Donald Trump's attitude toward Russia since then, Putin seems like a master manipulator. At home, however, it doesn't quite look that way. After nearly two decades in power, Putin is under pressure. The Russian public is less impressed with his swaggering on the global stage and is running out of patience with the stagnant economy at home, rising poverty, rampant corruption, repression and widespread abuses of power, according to Russian opinion surveys.