Even as Russian propagandists say that the Kremlin leader was not involved in the Russian doping program, something improbable on its face, Vladimir Putin had the kind of busy week in which he acted in ways that show he is involved in almost everything that goes on in Russia – and regrettably in other countries as well.
Asserting that no one in the world can create problems for Russia that it can’t overcome, Putin took a number of steps showing that he is quite able to do so on his own, including these:
- He signed the so-called Sadist Law allowing jailers to beat prisoners with impunity.
- He vetoed a Duma-passed measure – for the first time since 2012 – that might have helped local governments.
- He gave a grant for patriotic education to his biker buddies.
- He ensured that a journalist who had reported about assassination attempts against him was fired from Moscow television.
- He promised to help build a Buddhist shrine in Moscow.
- He denounced the practice of using Islam and terrorism in the same sentence. (It will be interesting to see if those in the US who so criticized President Barack Obama for making a similar argument will say anything about the Kremlin ruler’s declaration.)
But not all the news for Putin was good:
- Polls showed that Russians were paying less attention to war and more to economic problems at home.
- Russians are watching television less and turning to the Internet more, thus reducing the impact of his chosen means of maintaining control
- Putin has Russia in so many wars now that Muscovites aren’t sure whom they’re fighting. A survey of Russians in the streets of Moscow by Radio Liberty journalists found that Russians are far from sure just whom they are fighting now.
- And he can’t have been happy that the Parisian satirical journal published a cartoon about the crash of the Russian plane over the Black Sea with the legend that “the bad news is that Putin wasn’t on board.”
- He said that the death of 75 people in Irkutsk from drinking an alcohol surrogate is a tragedy and justifies raising taxes on alcohol and restricting the sale of alcohol and surrogates during the holidays but that there is no reason to try to ban drinking in Russia as its problems are no worse than those in Scandinavian countries. The Russian president also blamed foreigners for what happened in Irkutsk, although he provided no evidence for that assertion. Meanwhile, Russian officials have banned the sale of some surrogates and restricted the sale of alcohol in Moscow during the upcoming holidays.
- Russian economists say that the Russian economy can’t easily recover until domestic demand increases.
- More than 15 million pensioners are now working illegally.
- Teachers in the Transbaikal say they won’t go back to work in January until they are paid at least half of their December salaries.
- Nearly a quarter of all Russian regions are virtually bankrupt.
- Unemployment went up in 81 of Russia’s regions last week.
- Russian officials announced that they have now destroyed 9000 tons of food Putin has banned from entering the country.
But Putin is looking ahead: his officials declared that in the upcoming elections, they want 70 percent of all voters to take part and 70 percent of those who do to vote for the Kremlin candidate.
- No matter how much Trump may want to, he can’t ‘give’ Ukraine to Putin, Piontkovsky says
- Putin’s ‘achievement’ in Syria: now Russians the target for Muslim anger, Portnikov says
- Putin needs a new cold war to stave off the end of the empire, just like Soviet leaders, Karelian says
- Putin’s Syrian campaign a truly ‘Orwellian one,’ Kalashnikov says
- A “once-upon-a-time” fable about Ukraine, Putin and Europe
- Debates about Putin now recall those about Hitler in mid-1930s, Ikhlov says