Vladimir Putin: the gremlin in the Kremlin

Russia’s ‘squeezed middle’ is disenchanted with Mr Putin, as his   election humiliation shows – even his allies are getting nervous about his   plans.

 As Vladimir Putin nurses a rare electoral hangover, he will want to forget a   recent incident that opened up the first crack in his once unassailable cult   of personality. Sharply dressed in a blue suit, the diminutive Russian Prime   Minister clambered into a boxing ring in Moscow a few weeks ago to   congratulate a Russian martial arts fighter on savagely beating his American   opponent.

Mr Putin, who has a black belt in judo, loves a good fight himself and the   symbolism of Russia defeating its old Cold War enemy must have appealed to   him. But instead of being given the hero treatment he has revelled in for   the last decade, the crowd began to boo, jeer and whistle. “Go away!” one   man could be heard shouting.

VVP, as he is affectionately known, appeared thrown for a second, but swiftly   recovered his composure. His silken spokesman was quick to claim that the   booing was directed at the defeated American fighter, while a female Kremlin   youth activist asserted even more improbably that people in the allegedly   inebriated crowd were venting their anger at not being able to leave and   empty their bladders.

Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition blogger, had a different explanation.   He said the unprecedented public humiliation of Mr Putin was “the end of an   era”. Alexander Rubtsov, a journalist at the liberal “Novaya Gazeta”   newspaper, agrees. “That was the moment Putin’s Teflon charisma began to   peel away. For now it is only peeling off in pieces, but it is a serious   problem: in real life people throw away such frying pans. In politics, such   defective goods are still used for a while even though everyone knows they   are beyond repair.”

Less than a month after the famous booing incident, Mr Putin, who has made it   clear he is determined to return to the presidency for a third controversial   term next year, is digesting an embarrassing electoral setback. His ruling   United Russia party may have won Sunday’s parliamentary election but it saw   its vote collapse by almost 15 per cent and, if international observers are   to be believed, the real number of votes was probably much lower. To   compound the insult, thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow last   night in one of the biggest demonstrations against Mr Putin in recent years.


Categories: Europe, Russia

1 reply

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