Russian Politics, & Personalities

Posts Tagged ‘Putin

Peskov Prevaricates

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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.

Written by Nina Jobe

September 26, 2013 at 8:27 AM

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1999 Putin vs 2013 Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s op-ed that was published in the New York Times this morning has been met with both much praise and much derision.  My own Twitter feed has been filled with comments, jokes, and links to responses.  However, what caught my eye early on was this comment from Steve Lee Myers, the acting Bureau Chief for the New York Times in Moscow:

As Prime Minister in 1999, Putin oversaw the Russian incursion into Chechnya in the name of state security.  Many in the world community saw this as a cause for concern, and President Bill Clinton raised the issue when the two men met in Oslo in November of that year.

The emotional tone of the 1999 article [http://nyti.ms/1d6Z7LL%5D is the very first thing that jumped out at me.  Putin begins by saying: “Because we value our relations with the United States and care about Americans’ perception of us, I want to explain our actions in clear terms.”

He then goes straight into a hypothetical scenario of a terrorist attack on New York City (something that is very odd to read 12 years after 9/11), and urges his readers to imagine renegade militias out of Montana running rampant across middle America and striking fear into the hearts of citizens.  He compares this imaginary scenario to what Shamil Basayev was doing in Chechnya.

The whole essay is very artfully done.  Putin appeals to Americans’ experiences in the post-Cold War reality.  He cites incidents of terrorist violence on American targets around the world, and says, “Terrorism today knows no boundaries.”

He insists: “The antiterrorist campaign was forced upon us. Sadly, decisive armed intervention was the only way to prevent further casualties both within and far outside the borders of Chechnya, further suffering by so many people enslaved by terrorists….”

And his ending paragraph reads in an odd mixture of defensiveness, and meekness:

“But when a society’s core interests are besieged by violent elements, responsible leaders must respond. That is our purpose in Chechnya, and we are determined to see it through. The understanding of our friends abroad would be helpful.”

Contrast this with today’s article written in response to President Obama’s recent speech about Syria .  Again Putin appeals to the American public as a whole, and not just their leadership, saying: “It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.”

The following sentence was especially noteworthy when compared to the 1999 article in defense of the Russian incursion into Chechnya: “Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country.”  Sound familiar at all?

Or compare the following two sentences.  Putin in 1999 defending his actions in Chechnya: “Yet in the midst of war, even the most carefully planned military operations occasionally cause civilian casualties, and we deeply regret that.”  And Putin in 2013 warning against targeted strikes in Syria: “No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.”

As Presidents do not write their own speeches, neither do they write their own articles.  Whatever the differences between these two articles, the authors of each one know their audience and worked hard to appeal to it.

The world has changed a lot in the last 14 years, and the reality today is much different than it was in 1999.  President Putin has now been in power in one form or another for almost 14 years.  Chechnya was destroyed and then rebuilt, but Russia is not really much safer than it was 14 years ago.

America meanwhile has had boots on the ground in Iraq for a decade, and Afghanistan for 12 years.  Most Americans are not enthusiastic about becoming entrenched in another conflict overseas no matter how noble the arguments for involvement are.  In that kind of environment, who could object to the following sentiment?  “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”

Putin’s appeal to the American public is not falling on fallow ground, as just skimming the 600 plus comments in his New York Times’ article will attest.  And the article has spawned a “Putin For Peace” trend on Twitter, with rumors of a possible Nobel Peace Prize nomination in the offing.  Mr Putin knows his audience, but does his audience know Mr Putin?

Written by Nina Jobe

September 12, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Putin’s Pike

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Vladimir Putin’s fishing expedition in Tyva lit up the Russian blogosphere over the weekend.  There were lots of bromance jokes about Putin and Medvedev, and debates about the size of the fish Putin caught (conclusion: much smaller than the claimed 21kg).

But there was also an interesting post by Andrei Malgin on his LJ blog with the conspiracy theory that the fishing trip did not take place at all.  And that the photos released were actually from a previous trip to Tyva in 2007.  He notes that the Kremlin never noted Putin’s visit to Tyva on the dates he was allegedly there.  Furthermore, the Kremlin press pool was not informed of the trip, nor were they present.  Finally, the cutter Shoigu and Putin are in has an MChS (Emergencies Ministry) tag on it.  This is important because Shoigu was the long-time Minister of the Emergencies Ministry until last year.

The evidence does not look good, but… here is the thing: we know Peskov lies.  It is an open secret in Moscow.  Someone once joked, “When Peskov lies, you know he is lying, and he knows that you know he is lying.”  Frankly, I don’t think he can help himself.  But there is a difference between lying in an interview about how much Putin’s pike weighed (and who really cares anyway?), and posting photos that are 6 years old and trying to pass them off as being only a week old.  Why would you lie about something like that?  What does it get you?

One commenter joked: “Maybe Putin has already died, and we don’t know it.”

Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov denied on Sunday that the photos were from the 2007 trip.

Written by Nina Jobe

July 29, 2013 at 1:39 AM

Surkov Speaks

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A partial interview with former Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov was released today on Russki Pioneer’s (Russian Pioneer) website [http://www.ruspioner.ru/honest/m/single/3718].  This is the first interview Surkov has given since he left the Government in early May of this year.  In the published excerpts Surkov reiterates his previous assertion that Putin was sent by God to save Russia, and calls Putin a “white knight”.

Interestingly, in an interview [http://izvestia.ru/news/552844] given just a few weeks ago, Surkov’s father said something similar: “Russia was given Putin by God and that there are no alternatives now.”

While the timing and placement of both interviews is odd, the reasons for them are not.  A criminal case [http://www.interpretermag.com/investigative-committee-ready-to-open-criminal-case-against-ponomarev/] has been started against Just Russia MP Ilya Ponomarev over allegations that he was given money from Skolkovo for work he never did.  Ponomarev denies the charge, but Bastrykin’s Investigative Committee is pushing for Ponomarev’s parliamentary immunity to be stripped, something that is not unprecedented in Russian politics today (3 other MPs have been stripped of immunity in the last year).

Given Surkov’s involvement with the Skolkovo project (it was part of his portfolio while he was Deputy PM), it is likely that a criminal case is being prepared.  However, Surkov does not have parliamentary immunity to prevent a criminal case from starting right away.  So Surkov is obviously worried, and for good reason.  Today’s interview and the interview given by Surkov’s father a few weeks ago indicate that he is getting out in front of it, and attempting to write his own narrative about his resignation from the Government and his loyalty to Putin.  But will his efforts be successful?

P.S. We should get more of the Kolesnikov-Surkov interview on Monday.

Written by Nina Jobe

July 27, 2013 at 12:21 PM

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After Poltavchenko’s move to Petersburg this week, and with rumours of another reshuffle taking place soon (either before or after the elections), the thought occurred to me: what if every time you reshuffle, your group gets weaker?  It doesn’t matter how small the reshuffle is.  Even if you only lose one person, you still have to move three people (or more) to make it all work.  For example, they lost Mironov.  And to replace him, they had to lose Matviyenko, who was then replaced by Poltavchenko, who will be replaced by… and it keeps going.  But every time you do that, you lose trust.  Trust that has to be rebuilt.  And that takes time.  If you reshuffle on a regular basis, the trust never really gets rebuilt to its previous point, because there isn’t enough time to rebuild it.  So that every time you reshuffle, your group becomes less cohesive, and therefore weaker.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Nina Jobe

August 30, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Ken Doll Putin

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I’ve given up imagining what VVP will think of for his next PR stunt.  In one sense, it is getting a little ridiculous.  But on the other hand… VVP exploring ancient caves AND diving for treasure (albeit in 2 meter deep water)!!!  How can it get better?  My doll “action figure” Putin keeps getting more outfits.  It’s like having a Ken doll (h/t Ani), but way cooler, right?

And then, SuperPutin Episode II came out last night.  I was literally on my floor laughing until I started to cry.

So things are looking up as the election season (finally) starts.  Substance may be lacking, but the PR stunts will definitely make up for some of that.

Written by Nina Jobe

August 10, 2011 at 8:25 PM

Duma Election Update

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Levada Center has come out with its latest poll numbers.  The numbers should come as no surprise.  Everyone is staying pretty steady in the polls.  I’ll break it down for you, anyway.

  • United Russia (Party of Crooks, and Thieves) is up one percentage point from last month at 54%.
  • Coming in second are the Communists with 18% (up one percentage point from last month).
  • Third place goes to LDPR at 12% (down one percentage point).
  • A Just Russia trails at 7% (up two points from last month).
  • And Misha Prokhorov’s party (so much easier to remember than it’s real name, Right Cause) got 2% in the Levada poll.

Quite frankly, these numbers are all a little sad.  United Russia’s numbers are pitiful when compared to the previous election.  But I have a feeling that there are a few announcements coming that will make this election a bit more exciting.

First, Prokhorov is planning a big PR campaign starting next month.  I haven’t heard any details yet, but will be sure to share when I find out more.  This will, I think, get his name out there, and help his poll numbers.

Second, United Russia have postponed their congress until late September (this may turn into Gazprom: Part 2).  The congress is supposed to finalise United Russia’s platform (something that I’m still not sure they have), and decide who will head the party list.  Apparently, according to RIA Novosti, United Russia is hoping that Putin will head their list.

So some exciting things may be coming, but all in all, I think that this election cycle will be pretty bland, and predictable.

At least there are always the competing Putin Medvedev posters scattered around Moscow to keep us entertained.

Written by Nina Jobe

July 26, 2011 at 9:59 PM

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Levada Center

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has released their most recent poll for the March 2012 presidential election (in Russian).  Those being polled were asked, “If the election were held next Sunday, would you take part, and who would you vote for?”

As of now, Putin is leading in the polls with a paltry 23%.  That is only 1 percentage point ahead of “I don’t know who I will vote for”.  Medvedev is 5 percentage points behind Putin with 18%.  12% say they would not participate at all.  11% don’t know if they would vote.  Zyuganov gets 6%, and Zhirinovksy gets 5%.

Basically, apathy is killing Russia, and this election specifically.

And speaking of apathy, has anyone seen Gennady Zyuganov recently?  The man looks seriously worn out, and kind of over it, despite the rhetoric he puts forward in article I linked to.  It makes me kind of sad.  He needs to give up the mantle to someone younger, I think, but he’s kind of in the same place as VVP.  He can’t.  There is no one else (in their minds, anyway).

Written by Nina Jobe

July 3, 2011 at 4:34 PM