US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — It’s hard to write about Russia when Putin is gone, starts the article British Independent.
The beginning of March seems like a very different century. In just a few weeks, the outbreak of coronavirus has completely rewritten political rules around the world. Free democracies imposed authoritarian restrictions to fight the invisible enemy. The new reality involves quarantine, phone tracking, and even QR codes to exit your home.
Here in Russia, where there has always been more control, the old reality looks more like a dress rehearsal of what we are facing now. Putin’s popularity and his entire authoritarian system is based on the notion that only his strong hand will save the nation from disaster.
It may seem to his people that just such a moment has come. But the Russian leader essentially left the stage.
Until mid-March, Putin seemed to ignore the coronavirus altogether. On those rare occasions when he was talked about, he dismissed talk of a local epidemic as “provocation.” The situation was supposedly under control. It was assumed that Russia is an island of normality in the raging sea of globalism. Healthy, unlike frail opponents.
The pandemic, of course, had other plans, and after a sharp jump in the number of Covid-19 patients, strict isolation inevitably came.
But when this happened, Putin disappeared somewhere. In a televised address a few days earlier, on March 28, the leader of the country mumbled something about the “non-working week.” He also proposed a crude plan on how to help businesses overcome the crisis, but essentially raised taxes.
In the end, the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, filled the niche, taking on the role of president.
But what are these new rules, and how they will work in practice, no one really knows. Such confusion reigns in the country that, according to many, “you’ll understand what the hell is going on.”
With the disappearance of Putin, rumors spread from the front line. Recalling that the president has not been seen in public since the end of March, some publications even suggested that the 67-year-old president could have become ill himself or, otherwise, was waiting for the epidemic in the shade.
The Kremlin’s latest reports on Putin’s schedule are also curious. So, on Sunday, an official representative said that the president would spend “at least another week”, working “almost in complete isolation” in his residence. But the very next day, Putin met in the Kremlin with two ministers.
From the frames and transcripts published in the media, one can see the president shaking hands with men. Not a word was said about coronavirus.
Given Putin’s pivotal role in Russian politics, even his apparent absence is becoming news. It is less clear how this will affect the mood in the country. Russians tend to forgive a lot for their politicians. But things will change if the number of victims jumps, and the health care system – God forbid – falter.
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