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Ceturtdiena 19.10.2017 | Name days: Drosma, Drosmis, Elīna

Is Vladimir Putin losing his macho image

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As Vladimir Putin’s 60th birthday approaches, a wave of biting satire is starting to hurt his macho image.

Since May, the former KGB spy faces the biggest protests of his long rule and ratings that an independent pollster says have slipped below 50 percent. His image, says a former Kremlin spin-doctor, may need rebranding, Reuters reported.

Former Kremlin spin doctor Gleb Pavlovsky said Putin’s public relations efforts were clearly now failing and described him as resembling a “tsar without any substance.”

“He seriously needs rebranding,” Pavlovsky said. “Russians like to joke, and the jokes about Putin have become nasty. Many people have got tired of him.”

Putin’s supporters still hold him up as the man who saved Russia from collapse after inheriting from Yeltsin a country that was in chaos a decade after the Soviet Union fell apart.

Putin reined in Russia’s independent-minded regions including Chechnya, where he launched the second of two wars against separatist rebels, and his tough anti-Western rhetoric helped restore Russians’ national pride.

“He still has support among a large part of the population, especially in the provinces,” said opinion pollster Lev Gudkov.

Putin plays to this audience by showing he leads an active lifestyle and is physically strong. He still practices judo, a sport in which has a black belt, the top level of accomplishment, and he swims and plays ice hockey regularly.

“He doesn’t pay all that much attention to his birthday. I don’t think he notices it because he’s an absolute workaholic,” said his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

Many analysts say he will seek another six-year term when his mandate ends in 2018. He has no obvious successor and a strong hold on business in the country of 140 million, a major oil and gas producer.

The satire is focused on the Internet, which has helped remove the shackles on criticism and has proved a growing influence in Russia as a forum where Putin’s opponents announce their protests.

At times it portrays Putin as a buffoon, the image that haunted Yeltsin, who once picked up a baton and conducted a band after a champagne lunch in Germany, and on another occasion played the spoons on the head of the president of Kyrgyzstan.

When Putin said last December he mistook the white ribbons worn by protesters for condoms, a doctored photo appeared of Putin with a condom pinned to his chest instead of a medal.

Putin has laughed off the jokes and hit back, tongue-in-cheek, by describing his opponents as “birds who do not like to fly in a flock and prefer to nest individually”.

“There were always plenty of reasons (to satirize Putin). I even feel a bit sorry for him now because he’s not as confident as he was a few years ago,” Sergei Yolkin, a cartoonist who has regularly poked fun at the president, said by telephone.

Putin also faces persistent protests demanding he quit, and his response has been tough. Laws have been toughened on protests, defamation and Internet use, homes of protest organisers have been raided, one has been expelled from parliament and he and another face the threat of jail on charges they deny.

Here is a satiric interpretation of Putin’s recent flight with cranes:

Ref.110.110.110.2074


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