Putin's silence and Stalin's legacy

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The head of the Russian regime only appears at times of good news. He has not yet ruled on the humiliating withdrawal from Kherson, the hardest blow of the invading troops in Ukraine

By

Dasha Litvinova

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Putin's silence and the inheritance of Stalin

A portrait of Russian head of state Vladimir Putin is seen at a preliminary detention center that Ukrainians say was used by Russian service members to imprison and torture people before their removal, Kherson, Ukraine, November 15, 2022. (Reuters)

When top Russian military commanders announced in a televised appearance that they were withdrawing troops from the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine b>, one man missing from the room was President Vladimir Putin.

While Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu , and General Sergei Surovikin, Commander-in-Chief of Russia in Ukraine, stiffly recited the reasons for the withdrawal before the cameras On November 9, Putin was visiting a neurological hospital in Moscow, watching a doctor perform a brain operation .

Later that day, Putin speaked at another event, but made no mention of the withdrawal from Kherson, possibly the humiliation of Russia in Ukraine. In the following days, he has not publicly commented on the issue.

Putin's silence occurs while Russia is facing mounting setbacks in nearly nine months of fighting. The Russian leader appears to have delegated the delivery of bad news to others, a tactic he used during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Kherson was the only regional capital that forces from Moscow had taken in Ukraine, falling into Russian hands in the first days of the invasion. Russia for months occupied the city and most of the outlying region, a key gateway to the Crimean peninsula.

Putin's silence and Stalin's inheritance

Vladimir Putin, accompanied by the head of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency, Veronika Skvortsova, visits the Federal Center for Brain and Neurotechnologies of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency in Moscow, Russia, on November 9. The Kremlin chief preferred to leave the bad news about Kherson to his subordinates (Reuters)

Moscow illegally annexed the Kherson region, along with three other Ukrainian provinces, earlier this year. In September, Putin personally organized a pompous ceremony in the Kremlin to formalize the movements, proclaiming that “people living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia become our citizens forever.”

Just over a month later, however, the tricolor flags of Russia fell on government buildings in Kherson, replaced by the yellow and blue flags of Ukraine b>.

Russian military reported complete withdrawal from Kherson and its environs to the eastern bank of the Dnieper River on 11 November. Since then, Putin has not mentioned the withdrawal in any of his public appearances.

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< b>Putin “continues to live by the old logic: this is not a war, this is a special operation, major decisions are made by a small circle of 'professionals', while the president remains at arm's length,” wrote political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya in a recent commentary.

< img class="aligncenter" src="/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/the-silence-of-putin-and-the-inheritance-of-stalin-42de8b3.jpg" alt="Putin's silence and Stalin's legacy" />

Vladimir Putin is pictured next to a military plane as he attends an exhibition marking the anniversary of a historic parade in 1941, when Soviet soldiers marched to the front lines during World War II, on Red Square in central Moscow, Russia. , this November 8 (Reuters)

Putin, once rumored to personally oversee the military campaign in Ukraine and give orders in the battlefield to the generals, seemed this week focused on everything but war.

He discussed bankruptcy proceedings and problems in the auto industry with government officials, spoke with a Siberian governor about boosting investment in his region, had phone calls with various world leaders and met with the new president of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

On Tuesday, Putin chaired a video meeting on World War II memorials World. That was the day he was expected to speak at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, but he not only decided not to attend, he didn't even join. via videoconference or send a pre-recorded speech.

The World War II Memorial was the only one in recent days where some cities were mentioned Ukrainian, but not Kherson. After the meeting, Putin signed decrees granting the occupied cities of Melitopol and Mariupol the title of City of Military Glory, while Luhansk was honored as City of Labor Merit.

The political analyst Independent Dmitry Oreshkin attributed Putin's silence to the fact that he has built a political system similar to that of the Soviet Union, in which a leader -or “vozhd” in Russian, a term used to describe Josef Stalinis by definition incapable of making mistakes.

Putin's silence and Stalin's legacy

Vladimir Putin visits a transportation center under construction in the Zavidovo complex, in the Tver region, Russia on November 7, 2022 (Reuters)

Putin and Putin's system… is built in such a way that all defeats are blamed on someone else: enemies, traitors, a stab in the back, global Russophobia… anything, really,” he said Oreshkin. “So if he lost somewhere, first, it's fake, and second… it wasn't him.”

Some of Putin's supporters questioned such an obvious departure from what even pro-Kremlin circles considered a critical development of the war.

For Putin to have phone calls with the leaders of < b>Armenia and the Central African Republic at the time of the withdrawal from Kherson was more worrisome than “the tragedy of Kherson itself”, said pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov in a post on Facebook.

At first, I didn't even believe the news, it was that unbelievable,” said Markov, describing Putin's behavior as a “demonstration of full withdrawal”.

Others tried to put a positive spin on the withdrawal and involve Putin in her. Pro-Kremlin TV presenter Dmitry Kiselev, on his flagship Sunday night news program, said the logic behind the withdrawal from Kherson was to “save to the people.”

According to Kiselev, speaking in front of a large photo of Putin looking worried and with one foot of photo that said “To save the people”, was the same logic that the president uses: “to save the people, and in specific circumstances, to all the people”.

This is how some ordinary Russians may view the withdrawal too, analysts say.

“Given the growing number of people who want peace talks , even among Putin's supporters, any such move is taken in stride or even as a sign of a possible sobering up – saving manpower, the possibility of peace”, said Andrei Kolesnikov , a member of the Carnegie Foundation.

For Russia hawks – vocal supporters of the Kremlin who have been calling for clampdowns on the battlefield and weren't thrilled by the Kherson withdrawal – there are regular missile barrages on the Ukrainian power grid, analyst Oreshkin said.

Moscow launched one on Tuesday . With hundreds of missiles and drones fired at targets across Ukraine, it was the largest attack to date against the country's power grid and left millions of people in the dark.

Oreshkin believes that these types of attacks do not do much damage to the Ukrainian army and do not change the battlefield much.

“But it is necessary to create a victorious 'vozhd' image. So it is necessary to carry out some kind of blows and shout about them loudly. That's what they're doing now, in my opinion,” he said.

(C) ​​The Associated Press.-