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Masculine, strongman, alpha male that's the image Vladimir Putin wants to portray to the world. And according to the recent popularity polls, Putin's magic bullet hits nearly 80% of the Russians. Putin was described by his school friends as a fitness freak, militantly studious, but afraid of no one. He was an ideal student, girls fell head over heels for him.
Vera Brileva, now a married pensioner, dated the future Kremlin chief when he was 16. Vera liked or moreover loved Putin, she describes him as a fearless bloke, afraid of no one. She reminisces about an episode wherein she was waiting for a train with Putin late at night. While other girls would tremble with fear, she was with Putin at certain ease. She shared Putin's first kiss at his dacha in Tosno, just outside of St. Petersburg. While Putin and his friends were celebrating New Year's Eve, someone suggested playing spin the bottle. When Volodya, diminutive of Vladimir, spun the bottle it stopped at Vera, their kiss was brief and she remembers feeling suddenly hot. She was smitten by him.
Collective farming, a Soviet era policy is still being enforced in some parts of Ukraine. Photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash.
One needs to understand that Putin is a KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti) agent, he is a professionally trained liar. The KGB was the most powerful and dreaded institution in the former Soviet Union. Putin is a well-trained agent of the KGB. He knows how to charm and build trust with adversaries only to betray them later. The best example would be former US president George Bush. The anecdote dates back to the year 2001 when the US president and his Russian counterpart decided to hold a summit meeting in Slovenia.
At the closing press conference, in response to a question about whether he could trust Putin, Bush infamously said, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him very straightforward and trustworthy – I was able to get a sense of his soul." Later Bush's top security aide Condoleezza Rice wrote that Bush's phrasing had been a serious mistake. "We were never able to escape the perception that the president had naïvely trusted Putin and then been betrayed."
John Sidney McCain III (August 29, 1936 – August 25, 2018) was an American politician, statesman and United States Navy officer who served as the United States Senator for Arizona from 1987 until his death in 2018, once famously said: "I looked into his eyes and saw three letters: K--G--B," McCain said of Putin, referring to his ties to the former Soviet spy agency.
Destroyed wall of a building from Russia with the number (year) 1917, sickle and hammer. A vintage Soviet-era building falling apart in modern Russia. Grunge symbol of the revolution in cracks among the grass and desolation in the countryside. Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash.
About Vera and Putin's courtship, they split their relationship when one evening she was at his apartment and was nostalgic when he cut her short by saying "I remember what I need to remember." She did not like his manner and they split up. When asked about what she remembers about him to this day, she said "To this day, I remember his hands. He had short, strong fingers."
On a concluding note, a KGB agent is at the helm of Russia. The Cold War has been re-ignited between Russia and the West. With Afghanistan, in a quagmire, the West and Russia are in a tussle to gain control over the vast resources of the region.
keywords: KGB Agent, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Soviet Spy Agency, Cold War, US, George Bush.
Vladimir Putin is a well-known caninophile. His canines accompany him for official meetings at his residence, serving as a humanizing prop or an intimidating one. He has also been said to have compared President Bush's Scottish terrier, Barney to his black Labrador Koni. He sardonically commented on the comparison by saying, "Bigger, faster, stronger," intimidating Bush.
His love for dogs has given other world leaders a plausible excuse to gift him puppies in hope of establishing cordial relations with Russia. In 2017, he received a puppy as a belated birthday gift from Turkmenistan's President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Russia has invented a new chapter in world diplomacy namely Dog Diplomacy. But, there is one particular rare anecdote about Putin and his dogs.
The Kremlin Palace shining in glory at nighttime. Photo by A. L. on Unsplash.
Marina Yentalttseva was a secretary to Vladimir Putin when he worked in the St. Petersburg administration. She noted that Vladimir Putin was a man with an empty office save for a desk with a lone glass ashtray sitting atop it, and with similarly colourless glassy eyes looking out from behind the desk. In his early months in the city government, Putin had struck some of his colleagues as eager, curious, and intellectually engaged, but later on, he cultivated an emotionally reticent demeanour.
His secretary once had to convey bad news to him about the death of his favourite dog, Malysh. She expected a sad, emotional response instead, got a deadly blank stare. Startled by it she asked 'Did someone already tell you?' And he replied calmly, 'No, you are the first person to tell me.' That's when she understood that she had asked the wrong question. The latter was the wrong question.
The whole story conveys the emotional reticent nature of Vladimir Putin. Russia's oblivious stance in Afghanistan is justified. Ordinary Russians may have sympathy towards the conditions in Afghanistan, but for Putin, he cares about nothing. Once the famed Arizona senator and longtime Kremlin critic John McCain famously said "Vladimir Putin is a thug and a murderer and a killer and a KGB agent". Concluding, Putin is a coldblooded person at the helm of Russia. And expecting humanness from Putin's Russia is erroneous.
Every French-speaking person remembers the video "Sarko bourré" ("Sarkozy drunk") at the G8 Summit in 2007.
"Je Vous prie de m'excuser pour mon retard du à la longueur de mon dialogue Avec monsieur Poutine" – "I ask you to forgive me for being late, this is because of the length of my dialogue with Mister Putin," Sarkozy said, pale, breathing hard and without a trace of a smile." Journalists mockingly wrote that the meeting with Vladimir Putin was washed down with too much vodka, but analysts knew very much that Putin is almost a teetotaler.
This story dates back to the days when Mr Putin was fairly new on the world stage and Russia was a struggling nation. It was the G8 summit in Heiligendamm (2007), where both the world leaders had a personal dialogue. Mr Sarkozy is a known opportunist and was the first to start speaking. He started off with the murder of a well-known journalist, political activist Anna Politisakaya, the war in Chechnya, human rights, gay rights all of which irked Putin to the core. The monologue by Sarkozy took a few minutes, and during all this time, Vladimir Putin listened silently. Finally, Sarkozy paused. After an uncomfortably long silence, Putin spoke dryly and asked: "All right, have you finished?" Sarkozy was confused. "Then I'll explain," – Putin continued. "Your country is like this (he makes a gesture with his hands, showing small size), and my – like this (spreads arms widely). You keep talking to me like this and I'll crush you, or you'll change the tone and I will make you the king of Europe."
Putin continued while putting abusive, derogatory words and mainly using undiplomatic language in his speech. By the end of the meeting, Sarkozy was shocked. He left livid. He was mentally knocked out.
Ex French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Russian counterpart at a meeting in 2015 in Moscow. Wikimedia
Vladimir Putin despises the preaching attitude of the West towards Russia. He wants them to respect Russia. With the Covid-19 pandemic raging throughout the globe, the epicentre of power seems to be shifting away from the United States. The European Union is struggling with its own unity and cooperation issues, China on the other hand is seen as an aggressor whereas the Russian Federation is seemingly stable.
Moreover with the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the subsequent takeover by the Taliban, puts India in the spotlight. It is high time for analysts and policymakers to re-consider Russia as a potential superpower and work on strengthening ties between the two nations.
It was August 1, 1998, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was vacationing in Karelia. He summoned Vladimir Putin, who was the newly appointed director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to his dacha in Gorky to discuss his expectations from him. Yeltsin wanted Putin to "make the service less politicized" and to restore its prestige and authority. He wanted FSB to be a beacon of fear. Yeltsin offered Putin to return to active service, which Putin outrightly declined. He reasoned out by saying that "It's important that such a power ministry be headed by a civilian." And so he became the first and the last civilian to head the FSB.
It was August 20, barely a month into the appointment of Putin as the FSB director, Anatoly Levin-Utkin a journalist in St. Petersburg was brutally murdered. He was the deputy editor of the newly launched weekly newspaper Yuridichesky Peterburg Segodnya (Legal Petersburg Today).
The dreaded FSB at a protest against illegal arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, January 2021.Photo by Kirill Zharkoy on Unsplash.
He left his office with a bag, which contained papers and photographs for articles in the next issue of the newspaper, which happened to be its third. He carried a thousand Rubles, about $140 with him. As he neared the foyer of his apartment at Rednova street and was busily checking his mailbox, he was attacked by two men from behind. They beat him brutally, shattering his skull in several places. The assailants took everything and left him unconscious to die. He was found lying in a pool of blood by his neighbour who took him to a hospital. At the hospital, the surgeons operated on him twice, but he died on August the 24th, without ever regaining his consciousness.
Utkin was known to write sensational articles, all delving into the city's banks and the competing spheres of influence. He had written an article on Anatoly Sobchak's escape from Russia and the activities of his deputies related to foreign investments. One article namely "Vladimir Putin Became the Head of the FSB Unlawfully" drew the wrath of the Kremlin. The editor in chief, Aleksei Domnin, said that the article had prompted a vociferous response from the "Putin's people." Complaints regarding press coverage were nothing unusual, but the gruesome murder of the journalist did send a shockwave among the media circles in the whole country.
The Russian Riot Police rounds up a journalist in Moscow, during a protest against the illegal arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny in January 2021.Photo by Valery Tenevoy on Unsplash.
The journalists' organizations took up the cause and appealed to the United Nations to press the Russian authorities for an investigation. Nevertheless, the Russian investigators were unable to establish any links to Putin's involvement in the murder. But, it was the first time that Vladimir Putin and Boris Berezovsky names surfaced in various media reports in connection with the murder of the journalist.
It is widely said that Anatoly Levin-Utkin was the first journalist to be killed under Vladimir Putin's purview, moreover he wasn't the last. Looking back in hindsight one can see a strong pattern of unsolved murders that mostly involve journalists, dissidents, activists. It is not surprising that Russia ranks 150th in the World Press Freedom Index. The WPFI is an index that ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. In Putin's Russia, anyone and everyone who speaks against the government policies is a state enemy. Journalism in Russia is a quagmire and so are the lives of Russian journalists.