Thursday, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus Eclipsing Putin Even in Russian Government Media, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 22 – Initially, it appeared that the coronavirus would help Vladimir Putin, Igor Yakovenko says, because it allowed him to restrict protests without anyone really complaining and to suggest that Russia under his leadership was doing much better than other countries.

            But more recently, in this situation, the coronavirus has come out on top, displacing Putin from his accustomed top position in the Russian news, even on state channels, and highlighting the fact that there are some things far more powerful than the Kremlin leader, the Russian commentator says (

            In the last week, he points out, the Russian media made on average 114,000 references to the coronavirus every day, compared to only 16,000 to Putin, and only 9,000 to the Russian Constitution which the Kremlin leader has been pushing as the most important subject for the country.

            “Putin naturally can’t stand this,” Yakovenko says; and to try to refocus attention back on himself, he has made the absurd suggestion that more than 70 percent of Russians are middle class. One can only imagine what he may say next.  But such remarks are likely to undermine and marginalize him further rather than attract the attention he obviously craves.

            Moreover, instead of offering comfort to the population as for example Angela Merkel has done and telling them that they are not alone but can count on him to do everything possible to shorten the epidemic and keep the number of deaths low, Putin through his mouthpieces in the media is saying the epidemic isn’t that serious and won’t last long.

            The Russian people and even the Russian media can see that isn’t true, and Putin may be forced to change his tune to reflect that reality, Yakovenko says.  But his obsessions, the vote on the constitutional amendments and the Victory Day parade, look increasingly petty and misdirected to everyone else.

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