MOSCOW — Several hours into Vladimir Putin's televised call-in show, one of the TV anchors interrupted viewers' questions to air what she said was a "sensational video" for the Russian president: a message from Edward Snowden.
The American who leaked a vast trove of material from the National Security Agency was granted asylum in Russia last year. But given how stage-managed Thursday's show was, Snowden's appearance was no surprise to the man he questioned.
"I've seen little public discussion of Russia's own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance," Snowden said. "Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze the communications of millions of individuals?"
"You're a former agent and I used to work in intelligence," said Putin, to chuckles in the audience. "Special services here, thank God, are under the strict control of the government, society and their operations are regulated by law."
Putin's official answer differs sharply from the reality in Russia.