Putin, his (too many) absences and rumors of illness: What is behind Zelensky’s statement about his…

Putin, his (too many) absences and rumors of illness: What is behind Zelensky’s statement about his…

by Marco Imarisio

On Thursday, Ukraine’s president said he didn’t know if Putin was still alive. And unlike in previous years, the Kremlin has not released any pictures of the Tsar’s traditional bath in frozen water. Meanwhile, the guard is raised around the Russian leader: a partial (but relevant) admission of trouble

A video was released this morning that was recorded on January 6 in the village of Zarechnyi. A group of military engineers install a battery of anti-aircraft missiles on a barracks.

Not an unusual scene these days. The installation of a protection system on the roof of the Ministry of Defense, the huge building on the banks of the Moskva, on the roof of a printing house not far from the government building, on an administrative building in the center, was read as a sign of the inevitability of possible Ukrainian attacks from new and more powerful models of drones .

Perhaps even more significant is the scene of the preparations in the small village on the outskirts of Moscow. The facility is just ten kilometers from Putin’s residence in Novo-Ogariovo, where the president spends most of his time.

If there are still more protection needs for the supreme leader, who is already the sole recipient of a security system that is unique in the world, it means that the possibility of the conflict escalating can no longer be ruled out, that really no one can feel safe. . And that’s why, this is also a possible interpretation, a new mobilization is needed after the partial mobilization last September in order to send even more men to the front.

Striking are these partial admissions of one’s own difficulties, which even appear on the famous propaganda talk shows, together with the usual tone-deaf explanations. Because they don’t even spare the figure of the tsar, who has to hold up a capital Z and uses every opportunity to appear strong, almost superhuman.

Instead, Putin is certainly showing himself less than he should.

After the cancellation of a series of public events, some of which had been announced, some of which were recurring, such as the big press conference at the end of the year, the President’s message to the assembled chambers, the big reception in the Kremlin on New Year’s Eve, there was often talk of a deterioration in his state of health.

Volodymyr Zelensky pointed this out with a certain sarcasm in his sentence during the live video with Forum Davos. I can’t find out if he’s on video occasionally, if I’m alive, and if he’s making the decisions.

In a few words, the Ukrainian President summarized the recurring rumors, now a subgenre of the Telegram channels, about the conditions of his hated enemy, from the alleged use of a double to an alleged illness in an advanced state to be able to prevent him from public appearances.

In the absence of evidence, it’s just propaganda. Which is more or less legitimate to believe.

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Putin has already made several appearances in the new year. Phone calls, video conferences or one-on-one meetings with governors. Even public outings, as often happens, with no presence nearby and only under the eyes of the cameras. On January 13, he visited Uf, the capital of Bashkiria, to bid farewell to the former President of the Republic, Murtaza Rakhimov, who was first his rival and then a great ally. The burial chamber had previously been emptied, and the deceased’s relatives were also removed. A lonely Putin put flowers on the body, remembered a few minutes and left.

Just that day, on the plane ladder, he had a brief conversation with Rossiya Channel journalist Pavel Zarubin, the owner of the Moscow-Kremlin-Putin Sunday strip, the only one who speaks up close with the president.

Last Wednesday, Putin was in Petersburg to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the siege of Leningrad. Flowers again at two historical monuments in complete solitude and as many meetings, with the veterans of the siege, soldiers and activists, at the table, but always with a certain distance, and then in a factory that produces war material for aerospace defense, where He met some workers about ten meters away from them.

But some deviations are also true.

The latter is perhaps the most speculative. Because the renunciation of the traditional ice water bath on the night of January 18th to 19th, the baptism according to Orthodox tradition, is also the renunciation of physical willingness to perform, for which the President has always been sensitive. According to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov, he practiced it near Moscow. Photos and videos of the company have been published regularly since 2016, except for 2022, when the event was officially canceled for epidemiological reasons. Nothing this year.

The combination of Zelensky’s words and failure to dive into the freezing waters created the usual social honeycomb, often fueled by news and speculation from the Ukrainian counterpart about the tsar’s health. Speaking to Novaya Gazeta, political scientist Stanislav Belkovskij, who is considered one of the leading Putinologists, warned against taking the Ukrainian president literally. According to him, he wanted to be ironic by alluding to Putin’s bunkered life. In short, it was an allusion to a man who lives closed in his own world.

And on this last point the discussion gets a little more serious.

January 20, 2023 (change January 20, 2023 | 5:55 p.m.)