In response to the article “President Putin Man and Myth” (Xania Boreanaz, Monday, 14 August 2017), let's begin this response by talking about animals. Now this story, quite famous in Germany, goes back to 2007. Angela Merkel and Putin had a meeting at the Sochi Palace in January 2007, during which Putin invited his large black Labrador called Koni into the room. A seemingly innocent gesture until you understand a bit more of the context surrounding it, namely that Merkel has quite a severe phobia of dogs having been attacked by one when she was younger. This is generally thought of as being a diplomatic intimidation tactic due to the political gap between the two leaders, Merkel later being one of the more vocal voices in Europe towards the Russian sanctions imposed by the US over the Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea (Independent, Jan 2016)
Naturally the Russian government denied any knowledge of Merkel's phobia, therefore giving one the option of the government being either incompetent (unlikely given the amount of intelligence and planning involved in state meetings, favourite food, music, room temperature, etc, is often provided by the host country) or lying.
Oddly, that wasn't the first time that Putin had involved dogs with Merkel; the previous year he'd given the German Chancellor a small spotted toy dog that, owing to Merkel's phobia had left the German envoy "bemused" at the meaning behind the gift. Seeing as that was noted at the time, it's strange that Putin forgot about her phobia a year later.
Sadly, it's time to depart from the fluffy, warm and lovable topic of animals and move onto the gritty and dark topic of human rights abuses, murder and war.
Where to begin with this mess...? The deaths of nearly 200 children in a school in Odessa? The war crimes of shelling civilian villages in Chechyna? Or perhaps the bombing of Kurdish villages in Syria as part of his support of Assad? Russian foreign policy has been condemned through international sanctions over Ukraine and Chechnya (Wikipedia, Aug 2017) and by Amnesty International which condemned Putin for its actions in Ukraine (Amnesty International, Aug 2017) and for its discrimination against LGBT people denying them human rights and legal rights. (World Report Russia 2017). Many of these cases are ongoing, Russia is still being tried by the ECHR (a court of which Russia is a voluntary member) for various crimes, and I say crimes since they have been found guilty already in other Chechan cases, including torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions (European Court of Human Rights, July 2017).
Perhaps we should begin more Vladimir Putin's attitude towards the democracy of his country, and his respect towards his voters. Statistical analysis of the 2016 election performed by renowned data analyst Sergei Shpilkin indicates rather worrying trend in regards to both voter turnout and vote distribution. Official statistics for the election provided by the CEC give turnout at 48% and then a breakdown of 54.2% of the vote towards Putin's party United Russia. Shpilkin's analysis of the election shows an unusual trend in that, the distribution of votes becomes unevenly weighted towards United Russia with higher turnout reporting stations. Polling stations that reported 95% turnout had four times as many votes for United Russia then the national average.
To quote Shpilkin directly “The easiest form of falsification in terms of cost and intellectual effort on the part of the falsifiers is simply to add votes in favor of the desired party or candidate, But adding votes means that the turnout changes in an upward direction from the typical distribution"
Suddenly, all the other crimes become more severe. You see Putin's administation at the centre of its actions, it becomes more calculating, it becomes harder to brush off their mistakes as "merely mistakes". You wonder whether a former KGB intelligence officer; a man who knows how to play dirty politics, who knows the value of statistics and data and whose administration is widely acknowledged to be high in corruption (Corruption Perceptions Index) and low in democracy (Democracy Index) is the sort of man who would be ignorant about his opponent's fears and make the simple mistake of inviting a dog into a room with his guest. That is a very cold and calculating man indeed.