After the initial silence of the media and the official Russian sources, it is now Putin himself to go on the offensive. With the usual mix of anti-Russian conspiracy, victimhood and distraction from the fundamental points of the question, the president is sure to give its citizens bread for their teeth.
At the forum “Truth and Justice”, a meeting with journalists held on April 7, four days after the release of the Panama Papers, Vladimir Putin said it all. Those expecting something new, however, got disappointed. The Russian president repeated the usual refrain of the American plot against Russia and foreign funding behind the journalistic investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). And he took it well at a distance, starting from the 90’s when he said “our country was in ruins and they were all very happy to send us potatoes and other humanitarian aid, and in return to tell us what we had to do, according to their own interests.” Then it came the Yugoslavia, when Russia was against the bombing of Belgrade, but no one wanted to listen. And then it came Ukraine and Crimea, and eventually Syria. “Things have changed, and our opponents are above all concerned by the unity and consolidation of the Russian nation, they are attempting to rock us from within, to make us more obedient. But it is a futile attempt.”
“You are professional journalists and you know what an information product is,” Putin said to his audience, in one of the rare moments of involuntary sincerity. “They have taken these offshore companies, but there wasn’t my name, nothing to talk about. They then made an information product, they took my friends and they put them in”.
Putin then talks openly of conspiracy, citing Wikileaks and artfully misrepresenting the meaning of a tweet. “WikiLeaks has shown that behind, let’s say, [the Panama Papers issue] there are certain U.S. officials and agencies”. Putin refers to a Wikileaks official account tweet (which is not clear whether expresses the thought of Julian Assange): “Panama Papers. Putin attack was produced by OCCRP which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID & Soros”. But he forgot to cite another, tweeted shortly after, this: “Claims that Panama Papers themselves are a ‘plot’ against Russia are nonsense. However hoarding, DC organization & USAID money tilt coverage”. Quite different.
What Putin does not say is that his virtual absence is a real presence. Because if it is true that his name never appears (just like the names of other involved politicians across the world don’t appear), there’s a list of sons and daughters, wives and grandchildren, godfathers and old aunts. So there’s (the wife of) Dmitry Peskov, his spokesman, already famous for the $ 600,000 wristwatch scandal, there’s (the son of the) Minister of Economic Development Aleksei Ulyukayev, there’s (the grandson of) Nikolaj Patrushev, the head of the security Council. And there’s the now famous cellist Sergei Roldugin, longtime friend of Putin and godfather of his daughter Maria.
What Putin pretends to ignore is that along with his many friends and associates, in the Panama Papers there are hundreds of other names, including heads of state, ranking politicians, businessmen and celebrities from around the world.
Quite a fuss, if the only goal was to hit him.