Whispers in Moscow about a leader’s health are nothing new
Moscow (AFP) – Where is President Vladimir Putin? The Kremlin was forced Thursday to insist the Russian leader was in good health as rumours swirled online over his week-long absence from the public eye.
“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy.”
— Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov
Putin was last seen in public on March 5 when he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and, ever since he postponed a trip to Kazakhstan this week, Russians have grown increasingly curious about what their usually omnipresent leader is up to.
The 62-year-old nurtures a fit, tough-guy image and rarely takes time off.
“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Echo of Moscow radio station on Thursday.
“As soon as the sun comes out… and it starts smelling of spring, people start getting delusions.”
— Dmitry Peskov, to Echo of Moscow radio station
Putin also postponed a meeting to sign an alliance agreement with the leader of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, and did not show up at a meeting of the FSB security agency.
Peskov said the agreement with the rebel region may be signed next week and that Putin’s attendance at the FSB meeting was not planned.
He said Putin was busy with Russia’s economic crisis and has “meetings constantly, but not all meetings are public.”
Asked if Putin’s handshake remains firm, Peskov laughed and said: “It breaks your hand.” However he evaded a question on when Putin would next be seen on television. Read the rest of this entry »
Celebrating a Century of Murder and Suffering: Soviet Communist Nostalgia at the Sochi 2014 Winter OlympicsPosted: February 8, 2014
— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) February 7, 2014
The Weekly Standard‘s Daniel Halper writes: Richard Engel reported last night on NBC that all visitors to the Sochi Olympics are getting hacked as soon as their electronic devices connect to any Russian network:
“As tourists and families of athletes arrive in Sochi, if they haven’t been warned, and if they fire up their phones at baggage claim, it’s probably too late to save the integrity of their electronics and everything inside them. Visitors to Russia can expect to be hacked. And as Richard Engel found out upon his arrival there, it’s not a matter of if, but when,” reports NBC’s Brian Williams.
…During my first night in Sochi, I got a visit from the one who doesn’t.
The only sound I heard was a key going into the lock and, at around 4 a.m. Wednesday, the door to my hotel room opening. Half asleep, I looked up and saw the light shining in from the hall. But by the time I sat up to see who was there, the door had been shut again. The one who doesn’t knock scurried away without uttering a word.
Do housekeepers work graveyard shifts here? Was it a construction worker, assuming something wasn’t quite finished in the room? Who else would both have a key and be using it at 4 a.m.?
In Sochi, those are questions better left unasked. Read the rest of this entry »
Mary Chastain writes: Russian authorities are searching for 22-year-old Ruzanna Ibragimova, a “Black Widow,” who may already be in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. They believe she may have infiltrated the security President Vladimir Putin brags about on a regular basis.
She is the widow of a terrorist reportedly killed last year in a shoot-out with police, Ibragimova goes by the nickname Salima and has a 10-centimeter scar across her left cheek, Russian authorities said. She also walks with a pronounced limp and has a stiff left arm that doesn’t bend at the elbow, authorities said.
Black Widows reside in Chechnya, and their husbands died during previous terrorist attacks against Russian forces during the two Chechen wars. These women step up and take their husband’s or another close male relative’s place.Naida Asiyalova detonated a bomb on a bus in Volgograd in October, which killed six people and injured over 30 people. A suicide bomber blew up a train station in Volgograd in December, but there are mixed reports if the bomber was male or female.
For Russian leaders, sticking it to the Americans has long been a source of both personal satisfaction and political gain. By that standard, President Vladimir Putin is riding high. He’s enraged Washington officialdom by supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—despite his apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians—and obstructing efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Activists in the U.S. and Europe have called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi over the country’s harsh new antigay law. The Kremlin’s decision to shelter National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, wanted on espionage charges in the U.S., prompted President Obama to nix a one-on-one meeting ahead of the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Sept. 5 and 6.
Since reclaiming the presidency in May 2012, Putin has become the biggest impediment to the Obama administration’s foreign policy aims. That’s undoubtedly played well with Russians yearning for the days when the country was a superpower. Yet beneath Putin’s swagger lie weaknesses at the core of the economy that threaten Russia’s future—and with it, his power base. And for that, he can blame a familiar nemesis: the U.S.