A Chatty Putin’s Underlying Message: I’m Still in Charge

Friday night, continuing to answer questions during a press conference after his spokesman tried to put an end to it, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin made a blunt argument about the nature of truth.

“You can’t trust anyone,” he told a reporter for Russian state media. “You can only trust me.”

It’s the right amount of time for a week that has seen Mr Putin particularly busy building his version of reality at a time when Russia’s victory in Ukraine seems as far away as ever. . In a series of public appearances that began on Monday with a televised drive across Russia’s damaged bridge to Crimea, Putin spoke about nuclear doctrine, prisoner exchanges with the United States, and the United States. States, Poland’s vengeance and even Europe’s “very harsh” practices. Zoo.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin published nearly three-hour footage of Putin’s meeting with his “human rights council”. On Thursday, it released a video showed Putin’s commitment to continue attacking Ukraine while looking so cheerful, holding a champagne flute, that some observers assumed he was drunk.

And during Friday’s news conference on the sidelines of a regional summit in Kyrgyzstan, the president rejected the notion that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be met with headwinds.

“The special military operation is going on, everything is stable for us there,” Putin said, using the Kremlin’s term for the war in Ukraine. “There are no problems or problems there today.”

Most of what Mr. Putin says repeats his previous views, and much of what he says is false. Regarding Ukraine, he said that “in the end, we will have to reach an agreement” to stop the war, even as he gave no indication of his willingness to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty. And referring to American basketball star Brittney Griner’s release on Thursday in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, Putin said Russia “will not say no to doing this extra work. Future.”

However, his string of appearances is a message in itself: it is the message of a president who, despite Russia’s faltering economy under sanctions and massive military losses, trying to present themselves as healthy, sane, and still in power.

The boom in activity began in November, when he held only one public event that lasted from 10 to 20 November – an absence of the limelight that the Kremlin could not explain.

Grigorii Golosov, professor of political science at the European University in St. “When Putin talks too much, what he says is not so important.”

Indeed, some of Putin’s comments this week are primarily intended to reveal his attention to his government’s propaganda. At Wednesday’s videoconference with a handpicked human rights panel, he answered a question about the treatment of Russians in Europe by stating that “nationalists in Poland” is “dreaming” of capturing parts of western Ukraine – repeating a baseless claim that one of his top intelligence officials had perform last week.

He then went on to say about zoos: “In some Western countries, animals in zoos are killed, butchered in front of children, etc. This is completely out of line with our culture, our culture, and our culture. culture of the peoples of the Russian Federation”.

Pro-Kremlin media reported, it was a reference to decision of the Copenhagen Zoo 2014 to kill a giraffe because of the risk of inbreeding. And it’s an example of how Mr. Putin is trying to use whatever argument he can to bolster anti-Western sentiment among the Russian public.

But in Mr. Putin’s autocracy, it is his words that best guide Russian policy. Regarding that score, he did not raise any doubts this week, repeat the comparison he made last June about his own conquests before those of Peter the Great, the important tsar of the 18th century.

“The fact that there are new territories – this is an important result for Russia, it’s very serious,” said Putin, flicker a smug smile, said at an online meeting Wednesday with his human rights council, despite his military’s increasingly tight control over those areas.

“Peter the Great fought for access to the Sea of ​​Azov,” Putin added, referring to Ukraine’s southeastern coast, which the Russian military currently controls.

The next day, Mr. Putin presented the Russian Golden Star to military officers at the Kremlin. In addition to releasing footage of his speech, Putin’s office released a four-minute clip of the president making small military talks with the honorees, each holding a tree. champagne flute.

“The strike aircraft are fighting wonderfully, as are the ‘sushki’,” Putin said, referring to the army’s Sukhoi fighters with a tiny plane. “Amazing, just excellent.”

He went on to justify Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure by saying, “But who started it?” rhetorical question, claiming that Ukraine is responsible for attacking the Kerch Strait Bridge to Crimea, which Russia uses to resupply its frontline troops.

On social media, some expressed surprise when the Kremlin released the footage, as Mr Putin – whose sanity and self-control are central to his carefully crafted image in Russia – looks it looks like he was drunk as he paced back and forth. But Mr. Golosov said that broadcasting Putin’s seeming happy and relaxed discussion about his country’s deadly war worked for the Kremlin’s reeling doctors.

“Putin needs to show the public that things are going well,” Mr. Golosov said, “that he can talk about what is happening with interest.”

However, Mr. Putin also has a global audience in mind. On Friday, he further explained what he said could be a change in Russia’s nuclear doctrine, warning that Russia could modify its philosophy to allow for a pre-emptive strike. US policy may require a more aggressive stance, he said – even if he leaves his options open, as he often does.

“We are just thinking about it,” Putin said.


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