LETTER FROM MOSCOW
A beach in Bali, January 13, 2023. SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP
“Mi amigos, how are you? Mando felicidad, mando salud en año nuevo! The man speaks Spanish hesitantly, but with the perfectly relaxed air of a vacationer in a bathing suit, floral shirt, and straw hat. More calmly, he continues in Russian: “Hello brothers, Happy New Year! I wish you lots of money, lots of good cheer, and I’ll make myself a little cocktail…” In keeping with the plot, he pours two bottles of beer into an unknown liquid before showing the camera the beautiful beach of fine Mexican sand on which it sits.
The first week of January, which runs from New Year to Orthodox Christmas, is sacred in Russia. The whole country remains in hibernation, shops and administrations are closed, and everyone feels as free as ever to do what they want: sleep in for a week, stuff themselves with olive oil, watch old Soviet films on TV or on dream beaches in the Caribbean go for a walk Thailand…
Except that the current time in Russia is not quite normal and that our Mexican cocktail lover is not just anyone: Maxime Vassiliev is a deputy from the Kursk region. His wife Svetlana, who films, is a deputy from the city of the same name and also a member of the ruling United Russia party.
In the midst of a “special operation” in Ukraine, these somewhat easy wishes struggle to get through. Traveling to certain parts of the world has become a logistical feat; the vast majority of Russians have been struggling with declining purchasing power for the last ten years; Some mainly sleep in frozen trenches on the Ukrainian front. The Kursk region receives shellfish almost every day.
Member of Parliament threatened with “Wagner Mass”.
The video, which appeared on a local Telegram channel on January 7, provoked some gnashing of teeth among the population, but above all violent reactions from the political leadership. The Kursk governor called for sanctions and said he was “extremely angry”. United Russia Secretary-General Andrei Turchak called for his immediate resignation.
In a sign of the particular tone of public debate in Russia, Mr Tourchak also threatened the MP with “Wagner’s club,” a reference to the extrajudicial executions filmed and broadcast by the mercenary company. Equally significant was Vasilyev’s defense. The elected official apologized but credited the broadcast of the video to “a representative of western Ukraine.”
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