MOSCOW — Has Vladimir Putin lost his mind? That’s the question on the lips of millions and has now been articulated by a top US senator who was close to suggesting that the Russian autocrat – dubbed by his main domestic rival Alexei Navalny as “” old man in the bunker” – mentally unwell. .
Marco Rubio, a former presidential candidate whose position as vice chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Selection Committee gives him broad access to classified information, cryptically tweeted: “I wish I could share more, but now I can say it’s pretty clear to a lot of people that something is wrong with Putin.
“He has always been a killer, but his problems are different and significant now. It would be a mistake to assume that this Putin will react the same way he did five years ago.”
Rubio doesn’t expand on his theory but seasoned Kremlin watchers say the Russian leader mostly a recluse for the past two years, retreating into a life of paranoid exile from the world.
Extremely strict measures to protect Putin from the coronavirus mean that the majority of his meetings take place over absurdly long tables or by video link.
Moscow officials are obligated to provide stool samples several times a week to make sure they don’t infect Putin, and many of those who met him in person had to spend two weeks in self-isolation prior to that, the website said. Baza reported. for resources in security services.
“He has withdrawn into himself a lot during the last two years. He has become detached from the bureaucracy, from the establishment, from the elite. “He spends a lot of time alone in his own thoughts and fears,” says Tatiana Stanovaya of political analysis firm R.Politik. “He did not consult. He sets tasks and requirements; they are performed. ”
Andrey Kortunov of the Russian International Affairs Council, an advisory organization with close ties to the Foreign Ministry, revealed yesterday that he does not advise Russian officials to launch an invasion – and this decision stunned officials.
He told the BBC: “I can say that many people in the foreign office were surprised and shocked and I would even say amazed to see what was happening.
“This is an important red line that has been crossed by the Russian leadership.”
As his connections to the outside world dwindle, Putin now relies on a hardline group of military, security and spy officials.
These are the people who were with Putin in 2014 when he made the decision to annex Crimea. They also reinforce Putin’s distorted view of Ukraine as a country ruled by “drug addicts and neo-Nazis,” analysts say.
A trusted lieutenant is Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s security council, who has known Putin since the 1970s, when both were KGB officers. Patrushev considers the West a mecca of decadence and claims that some European countries are “legalizing animal marriage”. Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the foreign intelligence service SVR, is another former KGB officer and an expert on Soviet history. He often accused opposition activists of working with Western intelligence agencies.
However, it is Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who seems to have the closest relationship with Putin. The two go hiking together and in 2019 they went on vacation to Siberia for Putin’s birthday. A collector of decorative swords, Shoigu, 66, who oversaw the work of the GRU military intelligence agency, was charged attempted assassination of Sergei Skripalformer Russian spy, with Novichok in Salisbury in March 2018.
“Putin’s only contact with the world is through his inner circle. He couldn’t stand it if any of them took a stand of their own. For him, this will be a disaster,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin doctor.
Pavlovsky, dismissed by the Kremlin in 2011 for protesting Putin’s return to a third term as president, says the Russian leader today is almost unrecognizable compared to the man he once mentored.
“Back then, he tended to discuss things with advisors and he was more open to alternative opinions,” he said. The attack on Ukraine was a “very serious blow” to Russia’s own security, he added, adding: “Previous President Putin would not have done this. He is a very sober thinker. But this is all gone now. He has an obsession about Ukraine that he didn’t have before. Now he is reacting to the images in his own head.”
Pavlovsky declined to say whether he thought Putin had lost his mind. “I’m not a doctor,” he said. Others, shocked to witness the Russian President’s hateful lectures on Ukraine on state television, were not at all shy. “Putin is crazy and dangerous,” said Leonid Volkov, an exiled ally of Navalny Opposition leader jailedsaid on social media.
Putin’s War in Ukraine has shocked millions of people across Russia, from ordinary people to celebrities to members of the business and political circles. Riot police dispersed dozens of protests across the country on Thursday night, as people chanted “No war!” took to the streets in more than 50 towns and cities, from St.Petersburg to Irkutsk in eastern Siberia. About 1,800 people have been arrested, according to civil rights group OVD-Info.
The protests took place despite the Kremlin’s ruthless repression of dissidents. Over the past few years, Putin has locked up or exiled anyone for even the slightest chance to solidify opposition to his long rule, from Navalny to a Siberian shaman who has tried to led a “people’s march into Moscow.” The independent media has been labeled “foreign agent”; Anti-Kremlin activists have been jailed for innocuous posts on social media.
Celebrities, including Maxim Galkin, a comedian married to Alla Pugacheva, a popular singer in the Soviet era, have expressed their outrage on social media. Ivan Urgant, the host of the state TV token freedom talk show, called on Putin to stop his onslaught on Ukraine in an Instagram post. The Kremlin-run Channel One television channel was later withdrawn due to “socio-political events”.
Nearly 600 teachers signed an open letter opposing the war, and even Liza Peskova, the daughter of Putin’s spokesman, posted an anti-war message on social media before appearing to quickly delete it. it.
Amidst anger about the war, however, there was also approval and indifference.
State media have described the conflict as a “special operation” aimed at saving the people of the breakaway republics from the “genocidal regime” at the hands of the Ukrainian military. It did not show footage of attacks on Ukrainian cities. “This is a necessary measure. Russia did not start wars but end them,” said Vladimir Solovyov, one of the most prominent presenters on state television.
The Russian government’s communications watchdog has also warned that any outlets that use “unofficial information” in their reports could be blocked.
Sam Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London, believes that sanctions imposed by the West are not guaranteed to be effective.
“The only way sanctions will make things better for Ukraine is to arouse Russian elites and masses in search of leadership who are less willing to play games with their future,” he wrote on social media. . “They may or may not succeed, but the US and EU at this point have no choice but to try.”
Stanovaya, the political analyst whose work has particularly focused on the Russian elite, does not expect a leadership change anytime soon.
“The elites are in shock. None of them were warned. They all believe there will be protracted negotiations,” she said. “There are a lot of people in the elite who are against this, but almost no one is willing to challenge him. There may and will not be a coup. Only high-ranking figures in the military-security establishment could carry out a coup and they got everything they wanted.”
Are from Times of London.
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