Staunton, Sept. 15 – Under stress since Vladimir Putin launched his war in Ukraine and the West imposed sanctions, ever more Russian officials are drinking ever more heavily; and it is not only beginning to affect their work but also worry the Kremlin leader who believes they can and should follow a healthier way of life, Andrey Pertsev says.
The phenomenon and Putin’s concern about it surfaced during the president’s meetings with governors. He talked about the need to combat the use of moonshine and to promote more sober way of life even with the heads of regions not notable for their overconsumption of alcohol, the Meduza commentator says (meduza.io/feature/2022/09/15/priseli-na-stakan-kto-to-vtyanulsya).
The governors were surprised, a source close to the Kremlin says; but two other sources close to the Presidential Administration say that Putin raised this issue not on the basis of statics but rather about his concern that at a time of war, bureaucrats are drinking too much alcohol to be able to do their jobs properly.
According to these sources, Pertsev continues, Putin is especially upset about the amount of alcohol being consumed by people from his inner circle. He fears that those who drink too much because of the war are displaying weakness and that they won’t be able to give good advice or carry out orders.
All too often, these sources say, “someone disappears before an important event, sometime speaks with a slurred voice or is confused.” And perhaps most worrisome to those at the top, the Russian people have “already seen this” and are drawing anything but positive conclusions about their leaders.
For the present, there is little indication that Putin is going to fire anyone for alcohol abuse, but he has sacked one governor in the past because of alcoholism and may do so again. The Russian president is proud of his own sobriety and has been quite critical of the drinking of others or suggestions that Russians “grow up on alcohol.”
But there are two reasons why such leaks are important. On the one hand, they indicate that many officials feel enormous stress because of the war and sanctions and are easing their situation in the time-honored Russian way by drinking. And on the other, the problem is now so large that even Putin can’t avoid noticing it, even in the somewhat round about way he has.