Snapped this photo when I was in Prague in December 2009. The text reads “Putin Medvedev – Criminals!” Obviously the artist wasn’t a fan of the Russian President and Prime Minister.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s latest vacation photos are now online. Sure beats going to Martha’s Vineyard…
Thousands of Russians from the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi gathered in front of the United States Embassy here on Sunday night carrying jack-o’-lanterns inked with the names of war victims and charging that the war in Georgia was part of an American plot to improve Senator John McCain’s electoral prospects.
As music by Johnny Cash and the Allman Brothers played from loudspeakers, a stream of young people climbed off buses that had carried them to Moscow from far-flung provincial capitals. They held the pumpkins aloft for a moment of silence as a deep bass thumped and carnival-style lights played on the embassy’s facade.
In a film projected on several large screens, an actor playing President Bush (though with a heavy Russian accent) delivered a speech in which he gloated over the United States’ control over world affairs. The film asserted that the United States orchestrated World Wars I and II so that the American economy could overtake Europe’s, carried out the Sept. 11 attacks to broaden government powers and planned to brand every person on the planet with the “mark of the beast,” as referred to in the Bible.
“When that will happen, we will totally control all humanity,” said the actor playing Mr. Bush, swigging a beer, as a picture of the globe in chains glowed behind him.
WTF? What a bizarre protest.
I’m so glad Putin decided to stay on as Prime Minister. Otherwise, we wouldn’t get all these “news” pieces, like this one from RIA Novosti:
Putin’s dog get long-promised satellite tracking collar, wags tail
Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin’s black Labrador, Connie, has been given a tracking collar linked to the Russian navigation satellite system Glonass, the government website said on Friday.
Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System), Russia’s equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), is designed for both military and civilian use and allows users to identify their positions in real time.
“I have to say that I am a touch late, as I promised [in March] to give Connie the collar this summer. In the interests of fairness, however, I should point out that it was ready – I just didn’t have the chance to meet with you and Connie. The collar is ready, and we are ready to demonstrate it, fit it, and test it,” Deputy First Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told Putin at a meeting to discuss the development of Glonass.
Ivanov said the collar was the “only one of its type in the world.”
Putin then put the collar, weighing 170 grams, on Connie, who was also present at the meeting.
“Come here Connie, they’ve brought you a present,” said Putin, noting that, “She’s wagging her tail, that means she likes it.”
Ivanov also said that when Connie was stationary, for example, “in the forest, lying in a puddle” then the collar’s battery would switch itself off, thereby conserving energy.
“My dog is not a piglet, she doesn’t lie in puddles,” retorted Putin.
Putin’s dog is sooo cute. Having owned a Labrador myself, I might be a bit biased, but they really are amazing dogs. (My dog did not require a GPS tracking device on her collar, however, since she basically slept on the couch all day).
I swear, the dude is becoming more like a Bond villain with each passing day. And how hilarious is it that the gift-givers presented the tiger cub in a tiger print dog basket? WTF?
The Russian prime minister, who turned 56 on Tuesday, was given the tiger as a present. Yesterday he posed with the animal at his dacha outside Moscow, stroking her affectionately. “It’s the most original present of my life,” he told Russian TV. Putin refused to say who had given him the female tiger, which is to be called either Mashenko or Milashka.
“She eats meat – two kilos in the morning and two kilos in the evening,” Putin explained, adding that he intended to transfer it from its temporary home in a dog basket to a Russian zoo.
Just weeks after Russia’s state-run media reported that Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin had saved a news crew from a wild tiger, he is flexing his muscles again, this time in an instructional martial arts video.
The judo video includes instructional tips from Mr. Putin, a black belt, and from Yasuhiro Yamashita, a former world champion, among others, according to press reports. It will first be sold in martial arts schools throughout the country, and only later at some unspecified date will it be available to the public, First Channel, a state broadcaster, reported.
In one video fragment shown on Russian television, an Asian-style flute whistles in the background, as a black-clad Mr. Putin describes the principles of judo.
“The name itself carries the foundational philosophy: to receive the greatest result with little, but effective, effort,” he says. “In a bout, compromises and concessions are allowed, but only in one case: if it is for victory.”
This is soooo much better than Bush’s “Hey Ya’ll, Let’s Clear Brush on My Fake Ranch” video.
I think this is my favorite Putin quote to date:
“You can build a pipeline or even two, three, or five. The question is what fuel you put through it and where do you get that fuel. If someone wants to dig into the ground and bury metal there in the form of a pipeline, please do so, we don’t object.” Sarcastically, Putin dismissed the notion of a competition between Nabucco and South Stream: “There can be no competition when one project has the gas and the other does not” (Interfax, February 28; Rossiiskaya gazeta, February 29).
More awesome Putin quotes can be found here. We can only hope that Medvedev will be equally as entertaining (although I’m not counting on it).
Vladimir Vladimirovich, TIME’s Man of the Year for 2007:
It would have been cooler if he was sitting on a barrel of oil
TIME’s Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse. It is ultimately about leadership—bold, earth-changing leadership. Putin is not a boy scout. He is not a democrat in any way that the West would define it. He is not a paragon of free speech. He stands, above all, for stability—stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has hardly seen it for a hundred years. Whether he becomes more like the man for whom his grandfather prepared blinis—who himself was twice TIME’s Person of the Year—or like Peter the Great, the historical figure he most admires; whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to an era of repression—this we will know only over the next decade. At significant cost to the principles and ideas that free nations prize, he has performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it and brought Russia back to the table of world power. For that reason, Vladimir Putin is TIME’s 2007 Person of the Year.
Ivan, power station worker, Ufa
Every worker is being forced to take an absentee ballot and instructed to vote at one particular polling station with the rest of the workforce, all together for United Russia. It will be very easy for them to count who has turned up, who hasn’t, and how they’ve voted. On every shift, in every department we are constantly being told that if you don’t comply you’ll get the sack.
Yelena, nurse, Ulan Ude
Every week we have a work briefing in our poliklinik [doctor's surgery]. They are always pressing on us to vote for United Russia. The head doctor … says that if we don’t vote for United Russia we won’t get our Putin pribavki [federal funds added to nurses' salaries].
Dasha, 19, student, Moscow
I was hanging out with my friends in Novogireyevo [in Moscow] near the metro. There were six of us. We were approached by a car. A young man came out. He started talking to us about the elections and said if we wanted to vote for United Russia we could get 500 roubles. I didn’t agree but four of my group did. They filled in some kind of form – name, surname and passport data. They were given the numbers of polling stations where they should go and vote and get the cash.
Anastasiya, 40, librarian, Buryatia
There was a meeting in the village where all doctors, teachers, nurses were gathered by the culture department of the local government … The doors were closed and we were like hostages. We were told write a declaration saying “I, name and surname, pledge to vote for United Russia and these are my passport details …” We were told that if United Russia got a high percentage in the village we would get a bonus on our salaries.
Natalia, 29, Novosibirsk
Some activists from United Russia came to my home. They asked if I was going to vote for their party. I said no because I don’t agree with its ideology. And they replied, Well, look, there’s blacklist of people who aren’t voting for United Russia. We know where you live and we are going to add you to that list.
Masha, student, Vladimir
We were told – you study in a state university, so you should vote for the state party. I don’t know what to do. I wanted to vote for another party. But it was so difficult to get into university, I don’t want to be thrown out.
My personal favorite was the line “Well, look, there’s blacklist of people who aren’t voting for United Russia. We know where you live and we are going to add you to that list.” I’ll have to try that out the next time I do some campaign work here in the States.
In a televised address, Putin urged voters to back United Russia, warning that the liberal opposition would return Russia to the “humiliation, dependency and disintegration” it suffered after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russian Parliamentary “elections” are being held this Sunday, with Putin’s United Russia Party set to steamroll the opposition.
His valor is extolled on billboards across the nation, and his daily feats dominate the television news. At a keynote election speech last week, his handlers even showcased a shimmying girl band singing an ode to that heartthrob in the Kremlin: “I want a man like Putin, full of strength!”
Thousands of candidates are vying on Sunday for seats in the next Parliament, but the election is really about only one politician, President Vladimir V. Putin. After steadily securing control over Russia since taking office in 2000, Mr. Putin has transformed the election into a vote of confidence on his leadership and on the nation’s economic recovery, and he is throwing the full weight of his government and party machine into the fight.
Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are sitting this one out. Problems with the visa paperwork, or something like that. Employees are told by their bosses “Vote for United Russia or else…” and members of opposition parties beaten and thrown in jail:
Opposition parties have been all but suffocated by strict new election laws, scant television coverage, curbs on their ability to organize and criminal inquiries. Workers at government agencies and companies that receive state financing said they were being exhorted by their bosses to pull the lever for Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia.
A professor in Siberia named Dmitri Voronin, for example, said in an interview today that he and others at his university had been repeatedly called in by administrators and told that if they did not vote for United Russia, they would be dismissed.
Prosecutors confiscated more than 15 million campaign newsletters, calendars and fliers from the Union of Right Forces, one of the mainstream liberal parties that has come under regular harassment. In some cities, leaflets were anonymously distributed saying that the party was employing people with AIDS as canvassers.
Nikita Y. Belykh, a party leader, said he could not recall the last time that the party was covered by the main television news programs positively. Mr. Belykh was briefly detained by the police last weekend during protests conducted by an opposition coalition, Other Russia, that is led by Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion. Mr. Kasparov was arrested and sentenced to five days in jail.
He added that the party had received numerous reports from around the country of people being threatened with retribution if they did not vote for United Russia.
That was the experience of Mr. Voronin, the professor in Siberia, who lives in Prokopyevsk, 2,000 miles east of Moscow. Speaking by phone, Mr. Voronin said local United Russia officials had guaranteed party leaders that they would receive 80 percent of the vote in the region.
“They periodically summon directors of the local branches of the universities, directors of technical schools, specialized schools, head doctors of clinics and hospitals and give them instructions on how to vote,” Mr. Voronin said. “They also call together different categories of voters — for instance, young people who are going to vote for the first time — and explain to them how they should do it ‘correctly.’”
Here’s an interesting bit of exclusive news: a trusted colleague of mine has leaked to me copies of a series of worrying placards being printed right now in Moscow by the Nashi for distribution on Sunday following (or during) the successful elections. These items of propaganda urge Putin supporters to take to the streets in premature celebration, to defend the outcome before it is announced officially on Dec. 6. It is in many ways an open gesture of confession that even the Nashi don’t believe that a real election is taking place.
The posters use highly incendiary language and aggressive caricatures in the name of the president, similar to an exhortation to riot seen in other countries far less developed than Russia. I’m considerably concerned about this development, and I warn all friends and colleagues in Moscow to exercise extreme care in the days between the election and the announcement of results. It seems that the murder of a Yabloko candidate, the arrest and jailing of Kasparov and others, and the ongoing violence at any opposition rally isn’t enough to satisfy the Nashi. I fear the worst could still be yet to come.
I take my cardboard Putin everywhere, too
Anne Applebaum asks the question, “If Putin (and by extension, United Russia) is so popular, why even bother to harass the opposition?”:
Kasparov himself answers this question—one of many political mysteries in Russia at the moment—by arguing that Putin is far less secure than he appears to be. During a recent lecture in Warsaw, I heard him convince a large crowd that Russian opinion polling in general should be taken with a grain of salt: In an authoritarian society, especially a post-Soviet one, who tells the truth to a stranger over the telephone? He also claimed that polls asking more specific questions—”Is your city well-run? Is your mayor corrupt?”—produce a far less contented portrait of Russian society than questions like, “Do you approve of Vladimir Putin?”
Maybe so—but that doesn’t exclude the other, grimmer explanation, which is that Putin beats up his opposition because he can. The dollar is sinking, Bush is fading, and Europe still doesn’t have a unified Russia policy. Meanwhile, Russia is awash in oil money, next week’s parliamentary elections will go the Kremlin’s way no matter what, and why should the Russian president care if there’s some name-calling in the Washington Post?
Exactly. Putin…does…not…care. What can the U.S. do? Not a damn thing.