PRIME Minister Vladimir Putin will hold a live phone-in with ordinary Russians on Thursday, an official website said, in a move that has stoked speculation about his future political ambitions AFP via Straits Times.

The televised phone-in will be a repeat of a custom Putin started when he was president and his maintenance of the tradition while prime minister has been seen as evidence of ambitions to return to the Kremlin.

`The conversation with Mr Vladimir Putin will take place on Dec 4 at midday (5.00pm Singapore time),` the website set up to organise the event announced on Sunday.

`Mr Vladimir Putin... will answer your questions.`

The nationwide phone-in will be broadcast on the Rossia state television channel as well as radio, and viewers are requested to send their questions in advance by telephone or by Internet.

The repeat of the phone-in is being seen as further evidence that Putin still holds the real power in Russia despite ceding the presidency to his anointed successor Dmitry Medvedev in May.

Kremlin-proposed constitutional amendments increasing presidential mandates from four years to six, have also been seen by critics as a move to prepare the way for a new Putin presidency.

During Mr Putin`s presidency, the phone-in became a national tradition where he answered dozens of questions from ordinary Russians on everything from missile tensions with the West to the most local issues in the provinces.

But this time economic concerns are likely to be a major concern as Russia grapples with the effects of a global slowdown and a fall in energy prices.

The phone-in in the past has allowed Putin to show his awareness of the average Russian`s problems and also display his penchant for earthy language.

During his last call-in session as president in 2007, Mr Putin lashed out at the US-led war in Iraq as a `dead end` and famously said outside powers hoping to seize Russia`s oil wealth were indulging in `political erotica.