July 01, 2012

Back in the Saddle

On May 7 Vladimir Putin’s motorcade glided into the Kremlin according to the usual carefully scripted choreography. Guests kicked off his historic third term with fried duck, Kamchatka crab and sturgeon in champagne sauce.

Yet as Russians watched the live broadcast of Putin’s Mercedes careening through Moscow, surrounded by motorcycles, it was the emptiness of the streets that was most striking. Bloggers compared the eerily empty Russian capital with Washington D.C. – filled with cheering Americans – during Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration.

It is especially symbolic this year that Putin was sworn in at the Kremlin fortress – where no guest was accidental, and no regular citizen could sneak a peek. After all, the majority of Muscovites did not vote for him. If Moscow alone had chosen Russia’s next president, Putin would have had to suffer through the embarrassment of a run-off election for the first time in his life.*

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