- The Kremlin said Wednesday that Putin’s annual phone-in event for Russians was postponed.
- Putin has held his “Direct Line” without fail since 2004, but has recently been missing events.
- Rumors are circulating that Putin is unwell, but experts say they’ve seen no credible evidence.
President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly postponed his annual phone marathon on Wednesday, the first time in 18 years.
Putin has held the “Direct Line” dial-in session for Russian citizens to fire questions at him each year since 2001, only missing it once, in 2004.
Speaking to the state-run TASS news agency on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov gave no reason for the change and said the dial-in wouldn’t happen in June.
Somewhere between two and three million Russians try to talk to Putin during the phone-in each year, according to TASS. Past “Direct Line” events have run for more than four hours.
In recent months, Putin has missed several routine events.
In April, Putin’s annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly was postponed and has not been rescheduled, The Moscow Times reported. Last month, Putin didn’t turn up at an annual ice hockey game in Sochi even though he was expected to play.
Those have been accompanied with speculation, pushed by Ukrainian intelligence, that Putin is unwell.
In May, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, told Sky News that Putin has cancer, without providing evidence, a claim that has also been made by an anonymous oligarch close to the Kremlin.
Intelligence experts previously told Insider that they did not consider the claims to be credible, citing a lack of evidence.
Speaking on Wednesday, Peskov said that when “Direct Line” does occur, Putin would not be taking calls from residents of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Russian forces are currently fighting Ukrainian forces to control the Donbas, much of which has been run since 2014 by separatists who want the regions to become a formal part of Russia.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ground to a standstill in recent weeks, with Russian troops fighting to maintain the front line in eastern Ukraine.