Putin’s Pre-Election Ploy

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With Russia’s presidential election mere days away, the government of Vladimir Putin is pulling out all the stops to bolster Putin’s tattered domestic image.

Putin’s latest stunt comes courtesy of Russia’s government-run Channel One television channel. On Monday, the channel reported that Russian and Ukrainian special forces recently foiled an assassination plot against Putin in the port city of Odessa. The conspirators, apparently Islamic separatists, had allegedly been sent to kill Putin by the Chechen warlord Doku Umarov.

The story was certainly sensational. Yet the timing of the report, just days before Sunday’s election, is nothing if not suspicious. That is all the more so because Russian authorities had apparently learned of the plot during the first week of January and Channel One received details of the story over 10 days ago. Pointing to that fact, Russian opposition activists have plausibly charged that the channel sat on the story and timed its release to coincide with this weekend’s election.

Indeed, the assassination plot report plays into a common Putin theme – namely, that Russia is surrounded by security threats, foreign and domestic, and that only Putin can be counted on to keep the country safe. As one opposition activist put it, the plot is intended “to bring attention to Vladimir Putin, and to develop this idea that there’s a threat everywhere. It’s a spectacle.”

It’s not the only “spectacle” on offer. Last week, the Russian government bestowed a high-profile cultural award on a Syrian writer known for his virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American views. Little known outside his native Syria, where he is an apologist and apparatchik for the dictatorship of Bashar Assad, Ukla Ursan achieved a small measure of notoriety for writing gleefully about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “My lungs filled with air, and I breathed in relief as I had never breathed before,” he wrote in one article. Ursan went on to write that while he felt some momentary compassion for the victims of the attacks, “My soul was inundated by tremendous bitterness, revulsion, disgust towards the country that in the past half-century has racked up only a black history of oppression and support for the aggression and racism of the Nazi Zionists and for apartheid in South Africa.” For this, Ursan was awarded the Pushkin Medal for what the Russian government described as his “valuable contribution to developing humanitarian relations.”

If the award seems like a deliberate jab in the eye of the United States, it is. While Russian authorities denied that current politics had anything to do with Ursan’s award, there can be little doubt that it was intended as a show of defiance over the U.S.-led effort to oust Assad and to end the escalating violence in Syria – an effort that Russia, backed by China, has done its determined best to thwart at the U.N. Security Council.

The award, the latest in a series of anti-American provocations by the Putin government, can only serve to poison diplomatic relations with the U.S. But as an electoral matter for Putin, that is beside the point. His clear aim is to show that Russia under his leadership is not beholden to the dictates of the United States, even if that means siding with tyrants who are prepared to slaughter their own people by the thousands.

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  • UCSPanther

    Putin's sudden disfavour with his subjects will really throw the anti-American and anti-Israel malcontents who openly supported him for a major loop.

  • StephenD

    He isn't going anywhere. Think about it. He was the leader of the KGB during the time of the "Soviet Union." If there were to be any real changes in the power structure, would the leader of their clandestine Gestapo-esc Police agency not have been investigated and charged with crimes against his own people? NOT ONE of the former leaders was ever charged with any wrong doing. Because…though the names have changed the players and the game remain the same. "Soviet Russia" is alive and well.

    • reader

      "He was the leader of the KGB during the time of the "Soviet Union.""

      During the time of the "Soviet Union" Putin was just a KGB Colonel stationed in East Germany. He evolved as the the leader (or the front) for the rising "ex"KGB political force during the Eltsin years.

  • Ghostwriter

    This time,the Russians aren't going to fall for Putin's baloney. They know what kind of creep he is and they want him out. More power to them is what I say.

    • Stan Lee

      The fake election is on March 4th, Putin will be "in" again. He has enough power to do it. Actually, Medvedev was his "stand-in" while he, Putin, was ineligible "by law." Putin will put an end to that because he intends to be "President for Life."
      Russians are on very thin ice, the country has never had anything but an all-powerful ruler. It's Constitution and Duma amount to facade only.
      It's going to be sad, Russians may need to resort to revolution, Putin won't leave for the sake of the nation, and that nation has never had a taste of real democracy. It can only measure itself to the USA, electronic communication brought more understanding of what Russia lacks. Russians know what they don't want and that's rule by a police state. It's only a matter of time, sadly for Russia's people.

      • Jim

        The cry of the losers is always "They Stuffed the Ballot Box".
        The protestors represent a minority not the Russian people.
        Their protestors party could not win even if they them selves stuffed the ballot boxes.
        Unfortunately only the Communists have a chance of winning. The country side wants them.

  • Jim

    You certainly wouldn't want to return to those glorious days of yester year when Yeltsin and the Harvard boys dragged Russia into poverty while the KGB looted the bank accounts of the Russian people and took over small businesses by force.

    Putin drove most of the Oligarchy out of the country ,put a few in jail and used the rest to gain power.
    He was Russia's first really elected leader. He restored Russia. It was the US under Bush who tried to move NATO to the Russia's border even after the Communists were removed from power . It was the US who tried to aim missiles at Russia while claiming they were really aimed at Iran. It was a US installed Democratic dictator in Georgia who killed innocent women and children in Ossetia by means of artillery bombardment.

    If you want Putin out you had better think twice. The Communists are coming up fast is the polls.
    The Russian protestors are most probably astro turf for the resentful oligarchy.
    I will take Putin any time over Bush and Obama.

  • Ghostwriter

    Jim,why would you want a former KGB man running Russia? That would be like letting Dracula run a blood bank. It does nobody any good. Besides,I doubt many of Russia's neighbors are as fond of Putin as you seem to be.