An analysis by Michael Stott at Reuters raises a few good questions on the general assumptions of Vladimir Putin’s unassailable popularity.
But if Russia is so stable, critics ask, why did Moscow authorities erect the hoarding featuring the young children — allegedly for the construction of a previously unannounced underground car park — and block off the Mayakovsky square which was a venue for monthly protests by rights activists?
Why, opposition journalists ask, do phalanxes of Moscow riot police supported by dogs regularly break up small opposition demonstrations and drag participants off to waiting vans, even though only a few hundred people turn up?
Why does theKremlin’s political mastermind, deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov,ensure overwhelming victories for Putin’s United Russia party in almostevery municipal, regional and national election, even when it damagesRussia’s image?
Why is Putin’simage so carefully burnished by his minders, with the premier appearingin tightly scripted and amply broadcast encounters with rappers,intellectuals, car workers, fire-fighters, Pacific grey whales andArctic Polar bears?
Peskov saysthat Putin wants to be a “socially oriented Prime Minister with asocially oriented budget” but there are other ways of explaining Putin’spopulism.