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   Friday, 07 May 2021
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Public man who is reserved even by Russian standards

Sagarica

FILE In this file photo taken on Sunday, March 4, 2012, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who claimed victory in Russiau2019s presidential election, reacts at a massive rally of his supporters at Manezh square outside Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia. PAfter 18 years as Russiau2019s leader _ and with another six-year term sure to follow a March election _ Putin doesnu2019t show the appetites or vulnerabilities that can personalize Western politics, even when staged or spun. If he has moments of merriment or melancholy, they happen in private. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Sunday, March 4, 2012, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who claimed victory in Russiau2019s presidential election, reacts at a massive rally of his supporters at Manezh square outside Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia. PAfter 18 years as Russiau2019s leader _ and with another six-year term sure to follow a March election _ Putin doesnu2019t show the appetites or vulnerabilities that can personalize Western politics, even when staged or spun. If he has moments of merriment or melancholy, they happen in private. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

Public man who is reserved even by Russian standards

 

 

MOSCOW: Vladimir Putin’s torso, which he sometimes bares during sporting pursuits, is a familiar part of his public image. How much Putin reveals of the man behind the buff exterior is another question.

After 18 years as Russia’s leader — and with another six-year term sure to follow a March election — Putin doesn’t show the appetites or vulnerabilities that can personalize Western politics, even when staged or spun. If he has moments of merriment or melancholy, they happen in private.

His air of shadow, distance and restraint also stands out in Russia’s more rigid political culture. Never has Putin burst into wild dancing a la Boris Yeltsin or confessed a boyish affection for arena rock like Dmitry Medvedev did as a self-described Deep Purple fan.

He may be chronically on guard, deliberately not exposing his inner life out of concern that opponents could exploit it. Or he might be exhibiting his essence: a man so focused on power that other interests blur. When U.S. President George W. Bush met Putin in 2001 and said he’d gotten “a sense of his soul,” some critics snorted that Putin had no soul.

“He doesn’t like people naturally,” Mikhail Zygar, a top editor at independent Dozhd TV and the author of “All The Kremlin’s Men,” said. “He considers those politicians who talk about values to be cheating him.”

Yet others see a strong strain of warmth in Putin. “Easy-going,” encouraging and even healing is the description offered by Yuri Tolstoy, who was one of Putin’s law professors in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg.

Tolstoy, now 90, says the 65-year-old president visited him this fall after he received Russia’s highest civilian honor.

“I must say that after the recent meeting with Vladimir Putin, my health has improved. He has filled me with life energy,” Tolstoy told The Associated Press.

“He is a charming and witty man. He is sincere and open in communication with anyone,” another of Putin’s former professors, Dzhenevra Lukovskaya, said. “Speaking globally, I’d say President Putin meets the challenges of the national self-identification of Russia.”

Russia appears to be the self-identification of Putin as well. If he lacks an overarching system of ethics and moral imperatives, he has an essential sense of being Russian, perhaps of embodying Russia itself.

“He’s not there because he’s believes he’s a dictator. No, he believes he’s the man who’s trying to save the country,” Zygar said.

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