BREAKING NEWS

Russian television viewers have been assured that their government is doing all it can to help them through the world financial crisis. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin answered questions from a studio audience, and from across the country, in his latest televised phone-in. All questions were vetted in advance.

“In some other countries who are confronted with the crisis – and we all know this – the salaries and the revenues of populations are predicted to fall,” he said. “We will not do this. On the contrary, all our plans to raise base salaries and social benefits will come to fruition.”

Putin first launched his question and answer sessions when he was president and intends to continue in his new role. There is no hint that his Kremlin successor, Dmitry Medvedev, wants his own show.

Many Russians are worried, remembering the 1998 devastating economic crisis, which saw living standards plummet. Putin said he would use Russia’s vast gold and foreign currency reserves to ward off any collapse in the rouble.