Izvestia released an interview [http://izvestia.ru/news/557580] with Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Wednesday. It is unclear exactly when the interview itself took place, though it was clearly given in the aftermath of this past weekend’s Putin marriage rumors because Peskov does address that issue. As a follow-up to my article in Global Voices [http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/09/25/rumors-fly-that-putin-has-remarried/], I thought I would parse portions of Peskov’s interview.
Peskov, of course, brings up the marriage rumors again, and denies them, saying Putin does not have time for a personal life.
“I do not know where this information came from. I really received a lot of phone calls on Sunday. I was sincerely glad to get those calls, and I replied: ‘The only problem is that Putin is in Sochi. I cannot tell you what is cordoned off at the Iversky Monastery.’”
Peskov’s complaint about the phone calls was amusing since it was Peskov himself who had stirred up the media frenzy even more by going on television on Saturday evening to deny the initial rumors that had appeared on Twitter.
Peskov perhaps revealed more than he intended to when he addressed media speculation that Putin is fed false stories in order to make him look bad in public.
“Putin receives information from a variety of sources: from the ministries and agencies, the media, sociological services, information services and so on. In addition, he receives information from friends, acquaintances and colleagues. This is the widest range of sources.”
I got involved in a discussion on Twitter about this last week:
The fact that Peskov felt the need to stick up for whomever is dispensing the poor PR advice seemed odd to say the least. Why mention it at all unless you were worried about the public’s perception of Putin? Also, is Putin really taking advice from acquaintances? And if he has no time for friends, how are they dispensing advice?
Anyone in a leadership position is isolated. It is just a scale of how much. Putin has always been isolated but it has been assumed that he was isolated by choice. In 2005 a story surfaced that Putin had a close circle of advisors that met 2 times a week, and only numbered nine in total. None of those nine people were named. One of them was thought to be Sergei Prikhodko, who was the President’s point man on foreign policy. Prikhodko has since moved on to take a place in Dmitry Medvedev’s Government, and it is unclear if he is still running the show in the area of foreign policy.
And Putin himself has stated that he doesn’t utilize the internet. So any information he is getting is fed to him by his advisors. But who exactly are those advisors?
Peskov claimed more than once in the Izvestia interview that everything Putin says in public is fact-checked. On more than one occasion recently, Putin has claimed that a “party of pedophiles” operates in Europe. At Valdai last week, Putin was quoted as saying:
“Excesses of political correctness have reached the point that serious consideration is being given to the registration of parties whose aim is to promote pedophilia.”
The Wall Street Journal suggested that [http://blogs.wsj.com/emergingeurope/2013/09/19/berlusconi-features-in-putins-defense-of-antigay-policy/]:
“Mr. Putin was referring to a court in the Netherlands that earlier this year overturned a ban on a pro-pedophilia association there.”
Nevertheless, Izvestia said that there was no evidence of any such party in Europe, and when they asked Peskov about it, he defended Putin’s assertion, saying:
“As for the party of pedophiles – this information has been checked very carefully, including by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and believe me, this is not unsubstantiated information.”
The mark of a good spokesman is plausible deniability, something that Peskov has never managed to achieve. Or in simpler terms, Peskov is a bad liar. And every time Peskov gives an interview, rather than setting the record straight, the stories he seeks to clarify only gain more traction.