The Strange Phenomenon Known as Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 5, 2015.  Italy's prime minister visited Moscow on Thursday in a bid to repair ties that have been hurt by Russia-West tensions over Ukraine.  (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)

Strangeness and Vladimir Putin might go together like, well, never mind that part. But Puti-Toots is missing, and there goes next season’s Dancing With the Tsars. Damn. Too bad about that; I should have gone with a cliché about not having a thing to wear.

Such as it is, Julia Ioffe explains for the Washington Post:

It’s been more than a week now since anybody’s seen Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had a mundane meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on March 5, and then … nothing. Since then, Putin hasn’t been seen in public, and the Russian blogosphere can talk about nothing else. Their president skipped a number of events—including one with his FSB bigwigs—and the Kazakhs, with whom Putin was supposed to meet this week, said the Russian president was ill. They quickly walked it back after the Kremlin denied it. The Kremlin began fiddling with Putin’s schedule. State television began broadcasting news of meetings planned for the future as if they had already happened in order to show that Putin was alive enough to attend meetings. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s mustachioed spokesman, has been stonewalling all week, insisting that his boss is not only breathing, but “breaking hands” with his manly handshake.

Unsurprisingly, this combination—active and seemingly frantic dissimulation, and flat denial that anything is amiss—is perfect for the Internet. #PutinIsDead began trending on Russian Twitter, and the Russian blogosphere began to churn out theories of what happened to Dear Shirtless Leader, each version more ludicrous than the next.

In a way, it would be perhaps genuinely funny if something untoward has, in fact, occurred. Ioffe’s account of the current murmur is about as morbid as we can expect for so entertaining a spectacle as the Russian President puts on, and, well, there is a bit of history with Russian leaders suddenly disappearing. In other words, it is not quite fair to say that it keeps going downhill from there, although we would note that nobody’s suggesting autoerotic asphyxiation, or even merely two weeks off for the world’s most famous closeteer to scratch his itch.

____________________

Image note: Detail―Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 5, 2015. Italy’s prime minister visited Moscow on Thursday in a bid to repair ties that have been hurt by Russia-West tensions over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)

Ioffe, Julia. “This is why it’s impossible for the Kremlin to lie about Putin’s weird disappearance”. The Washington Post. 14 March 2015.

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