Has Putin a cold?

More than a week far from public life, two official meetings canceled, some fake photos of a meeting. It's enough to trigger the various hypothesis on Putin wherebouts. But the whole story, beyond what happens, is the symptom of a power that does not seem much changed since the days of Andropov.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images


When in August 1983 the head of the CPSU Yuri Andropov did not show up at the May Day parade, his spokesman announced that he had "a cold". Andropov was never seen again in public, until February 1984, when his body paraded in an open coffin on the Red square. And today, how is Putin? In any democracy, even maimed and imperfect, we would already know where he is. If he was ill, though he were dead, deposed or if only he had taken a vacation from work, it would be impossible - and unthinkable - hide it to the media and the public for more than a week.

That’ not how it works in authoritarian regimes and dictatorships. Where power is shrouded by a blanket of impenetrable official (dis)information and transparency is a concept applied only to windows, citizens are the last to know. Strange to say, that is what is happening these days in Russia. Vladimir Putin was last seen in public during the meeting with Italian PM Matteo Renzi, after which it disappeared. In the true sense of the word.

The evidence of Putin existence

The presidential staff has canceled, giving specious reasons, a couple of important meetings, including a trip to Kazakhstan to see members of the Eurasian Economic Union, a major project for Putin, and the signing of a treaty with South Ossetia. In the meanwhile, on the President’s office website, appeared some photos that have only raise suspicions. Particularly those of a supposed meeting with the governor of Karelia, said to be held on March 11, but already reported by local media on March 5, i.e. prior to the "disappearance".

The president's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said that there is nothing wrong and that Putin feels great. Meanwhile, the national TV have now released a video of a meeting with the head of the Supreme Court that would be held today (13 March); but neither the video nor the content of the meeting allow to date it with certainty. And the example of Karelia does not help to trust. Finally, the office issued a statement about a meeting with President of Kyrgyzstan in St. Petersburg on 16 March.

Like Andropov

Hypotheses on the absence of the president are spreading. Some say he is sick (is also quoted a source close to the Kazakh president), some he is dead. And there are some - among authoritative Kremlin analysts – who does not exclude that the murder of Boris Nemtsov has opened a crack in the power of Putin giving way to struggle for his succession. Putin likes to appear, and such a long absence from public life had never been registered, not even in the only two precedents of the tragedy of the Kursk and the hostages at the Dubrovka theater.

Most likely we will see Putin alive and kicking in a few days and all the rumors will evaporate in an instant. But one thing remains, and the question "where is Putin?" will change to "where Putin was?". The murky system of power in the Kremlin remains impenetrable to the eye of the public and the absence (both desired or necessitated) of the leader is only an internal affair that needs to be hidden and concealed by means that are reminiscent of the Andropov era. Just like dictators do.




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