Putin is doing everything in his power to guarantee his victory in the first round. Everyone everywhere is mumbling “stability, stability, this is what Putin has given us.”
At one Moscow factory, workers were given a form, onto which they had to affix their photograph, add their name, and then fill in the blanks: “My life before Putin” and “My life under Putin,” then return it to the factory bosses.
The few independent news outlets that remain in Russia have been under siege. This week, Gazprom-Media, the main shareholder of the radio station Ekho Moskvy, unexpectedly decided to shuffle its board of directors ahead of schedule. Ekho is the most popular and independent political radio station. The new board may well fire the head editor, Aleksei Venediktov. Yet he himself, in protest, quit the board of directors, even though it was said that no one was personally threatening him. Venediktov said that a president has yet to be born who could fire him, so how could this be?
An investigation is taking place in the offices of the banker Alexander Lebedev. It is said they are looking for materials connected with his money transfers to the oppositional newspaper Novaya Gazeta (in which he is part owner).
But what was most unpleasant for me this week was that many famous and respected people were compelled to appear in a video in support of Putin. When this is done by those long since known for their cynicism, it’s not really very frightening. But recently the superb actress and fine human being Chulpan Khamatova spoke out in support of Putin.
Khamatova heads up the famous humanitarian fund “Gift of Life” (Podari zhizn), which helps children suffering from cancer. It is rumored that they blackmailed her, all but threatening to cut off funding for the children that her fund supports, and she, almost crying (and, according to rumors, she broke down during the filming of the video), her voice shaking, says that “Putin always helped the Gift of Life fund.” I would not dare to condemn Chulpan Khamatova, I simply feel horribly sorry for her.
You just want to tear to pieces the sort of people who would demand a political declaration while risking the lives of sick children, who could so humble and smear such a fine person, someone who has done so much good. I expect that the video clip with Chulpan may bring more harm than good to the Powers That Be. You watch it and you are simply filled with hatred.
Meanwhile, cynical jokers on the internet have already composed a chastushka:
Утром Путин без затей
Скушал четверых детей
А пятого, помятого
Спасла Чулпан Хаматова
This morning Putin without remorse
Ate four children in his first course
But the fifth, badly bruised
Chulpan Khamatova somehow saved
And so we laugh while crying.
Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567