Putin’s actions in front of the press eventually turned into a propaganda event, in which the democratic image is no longer preserved. The same goes for the country itself, but it eventually got strange.
Vladimir Putin’s press conference has long lost its name. The word that it’s a propaganda show shouldn’t have gotten around in Russia alone. But while the organizers had at least tried to maintain the appearance of a real exchange of blows between politics and media in recent years, this time the so-called press conference was almost complete and eventually turned into a propaganda show.
Independent Russian or foreign journalists hardly had their say, with the exception of the British broadcaster BBC. A few journalists present also reported that for the first time some chairs in the journalists’ hall remained empty. This year, only about 750 press representatives were accredited. Last year there were almost 1,900.
Understanding the emotional world of the Kremlin
Nevertheless, such an orchestrated show, with no hope of an exciting exchange of blows, gives an insight into the emotional world of the Kremlin. Especially since in the rest of the country the democratic image is noticeably fading. This year’s constitutional reform gives Putin two more terms, while new rules make elections even easier to manipulate.
In terms of content, Putin and his media apparatus tried with all their might to create the impression of normality. A piece of “business as usual” in a country that has been hit hard by the corona pandemic and has more than 160,000 more deaths than last year, according to the latest official statistics. In a country with serious economic problems. A country where the president and the head of government have recently been personally confronted with rising prices for bread, pasta and sugar.
Bizarre first question
The state broadcasters had already massively advertised the show in advance. Hours in advance, reporters broadcast from the hall in Putin’s residence, from which he would later answer questions. “The president will be sitting at this table,” said a reporter, as the TV screen next to it showed a countdown to the press conference.
Press conference attendees hold up signs: the event itself has given up the appearance of an exchange of blows. (Source: ITAR-Tass / Image Images)
And the very first question should have sounded bizarre to a viewer who, as was recently the case with Putin, watched the country almost exclusively from an office chair because of the pandemic. A journalist from a regional broadcaster from Magadan in the far east of the country wanted to know whether it was a good or a bad year.
It only gets exciting after an hour and a half
Putin used this ballast to explain how well the country has fared economically. For example, that the economy has declined less than in Europe. Or that the Russian health system has fared better than in some developed countries. For those regular Russians who actually had the opportunity to watch the press conference live on a working day, these comparisons are unlikely to make sense. But it was precisely this meticulous optimism that was the main message the president wanted to spread.
It took almost an hour and a half for something like tension to actually arise at Putin’s annual press conference. Like an invisible elephant, there was one question in the room, which a journalist from the state boulevard portal Live then formulated in a very gentle way. “Why is there no trial for Alexei Navalny’s poisoning and who poisoned him?” Asked Alexander Junashev, who is one of a select group of journalists who accompanied Putin on journeys prior to the pandemic.
Surprising statement on the Navalny case
A few days earlier, an international research team had published a report detailing how an FSB team of chemical specialists and former doctors, working closely with secret chemical institutes, followed Navalny on his travels for years and apparently failed several times with a poison attack. .
Putin on all channels: But because the event traditionally takes place during lunch on weekdays, working Russians can hardly follow it. (Source: ITAR-TASS / image images)
The surprise: Putin did not deny the allegations in detail, but even confirmed that the FSB is following and following Navalny, after all, he is an agent of the West. Only the allegations of poisoning came out of the blue. Putin also ignored the realization that the FSB agents were not just tailors, but experts in chemical weapons.
Curious question at the end
It is not surprising, however, that the second question, which had a somewhat critical overtones, was also reserved for a journalist who had worked for many years from Putin’s press pool. Andrei Kolesnikov, who has been accompanying Putin for years and has written several books about Kremlin rulers, wanted to know if Putin would remain in power after 2024. “Was it worth it?” Asked Kolesnikov, referring to this year’s constitutional change. This time Putin answered evasively, as expected. He just doesn’t know yet.
Putin used the rest of the time to present himself as a caretaker, to rally against the “Western partners” or to compare the country’s current problems with the difficulties of the 1990s, which were of course much more serious. The situation can’t be that bad right now. None of this is new to Russian viewers.
In the end it almost got strange. A foreign journalist was one of the last to speak. Haukur Hauksson from Iceland surprisingly had nothing but good things to say about Putin. It is not true that the president is unpopular in the West, and he also praised Putin for his openness. However, it turned out that Hauksson is not a simple journalist, but also an author at the Russian agency Ria FAN. This small media empire belongs to none other than Yevgeny Prigozhin. The man is best known as a friend of Putin, as a multi-millionaire and as a financier of the infamous Petersburg troll factory, who wanted to manipulate social networks with fake accounts and paid comments in the interest of Moscow.