Vladimir Putin mysteriously postpones marathon TV phone-in for first time in 18 years

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Russian Human Rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 6, 2022. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Vladimir Putin has postponed a marathon TV Q&A session which usually takes place each year. (AP)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Vladimir Putin has postponed his annual TV Q&A session amid rumours over his health and in the wake of his invasion of Ukraine that is widely perceived to have been a military failure.

Direct Line normally sees hundreds of thousands of questions from normal Russian people submitted to the president, who usually answers around 70 of them in detail on live TV.

It has been held in June for the past four out of five years, barring 2020 when it was held in December due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reason for the postponement has not been made clear, although it will doubtless add fuel to months of speculation that it relates to claims Putin is fighting cancer or Parkinson's disease and would be unable to deal with a gruelling live TV event.

Speaking about the postponement of the phone-in, Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “We proceed from the fact that in the foreseeable future it will take place.”

Melania works clearing the rubble of a temple that was destroyed during attacks in Gorenka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, June 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Russia's war on Ukraine has been devastating. (AP)

He said: “The Direct Line cannot take place this month. From a technical and substantive point of view, this is a complex event.

“Routine preparations are under way. But it will enter its final stage as soon as the deadlines are set.”

He has since said the final date for the event is "unknown".

Questions over Putin's health were sparked in April when a video from February showed him “shaking uncontrollably” during a meeting with the president of Belarus.

That followed a report by a Russian investigative journalism group that Putin had been visited by a cancer surgeon dozens of times over a four-year period.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via teleconference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 20, 2022. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Vladimir Putin is rumoured to be dealing with a number of health problems. (AP)

On Wednesday, a former spy claimed Western intelligence officials believe Putin could become medically incapacitated "within three to six months".

Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele said the CIA and other agencies believe the Russian President could be ousted in the coming months following his “disastrous” invasion of Ukraine.

“There are signs his health is failing for a start which will be a factor in this,"

The Kremlin's reticence to explain why the programme has been delayed could also lead to speculation that Putin might be trying to dodge scrutiny about the faltering — and costly — invasion of Ukraine.

In March, the Kremlin passed a repressive new law that outlawed the spread of “false information” about the invasion in an attempt to stifle dissent. Anti-war protests at the start of the war were also met with a strict police crackdown.

While Russia has not published updated figures on its losses, Ukrainian authorities have estimated more than 31,000 Russian soldiers have died so far in the assault.

Having failed to take the capital of Kyiv, Russia has withdrawn from much of northern Ukraine to refocus on the east.

Watch: Satellite images appear to show Russian vessels stealing grain from Ukraine ports