Is Russian President Vladimir Putin lifeless?
Based on a mysterious Russian Telegram channel known as “Normal SVR” and Valery Solovey, a distinguished Russian political analyst, the reply is sure.
The truth is, the Russian president breathed his final on Thursday, October 26. The Putin we see now is definitely his double, who, Solovey claims, has been changing the sickly actual Putin for a number of months.
Few Russian or Western analysts consider Normal SVR and Solovey (a few of whom say they’re one and the identical individual). In spite of everything, they don’t have any concrete proof to assist their sensational claims. They supply remarkably detailed accounts of Putin’s supposed dying, growing its veracity, however imaginative idiots and secret police provocateurs are anticipated to do the identical.
The issue is that Solovey strikes somebody as something however a lunatic or a dupe of the Federal Safety Service. He has a biting humorousness, speaks nicely, argues logically and customarily comes throughout because the sort of professor any scholar would need. Other than his claims about Putin’s dying and the supposed exile of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the late head of the mercenary Wagner Group, to an island off the coast of Venezuela, his analyzes of Russian home politics are persistently shrewd and astute.
So if Solovey is not a madman or a puppet, he should be one of many two remaining potentialities.
As a possible opposition chief who might or might not really consider that Putin is lifeless, Solovej could also be decided to sow confusion inside the ranks of Russia’s elites and amongst peculiar Russians, leaving them to wonder if the nice chief continues to be alive. query whether or not the person claiming to be Putin is absolutely Putin – undermining his legitimacy.
With Russia’s presidential elections scheduled for March 2024, in style doubts about Putin’s well being and existence might solely complicate the Kremlin’s plans on who ought to run for workplace and what margin of victory there must be. It ought to come as no shock that Putin’s spokesman, the ever-lying Dmitry Peskov, felt compelled to disclaim rumors of Putin’s dying and that Putin’s existence can also be faux information. However since Peskov is all the time assumed by no means to inform the reality, was the denial a affirmation, or was it actually a denial?
The opposite risk is that Solovey and Normal SVR usually are not bona fide unbiased democratic oppositionists, as they declare to be. They might in actual fact be brokers of the safety companies or spokespeople for highly effective elites who can give protection to Solovey, who lives in Moscow and has managed to keep away from arrest regardless of his fierce criticism of Putin. The meant impact of the dying declare could be the identical – doubt, confusion and delegitimization – however the truth that the instigators could possibly be institution elites has extra worrying implications for Putin and the political system.
Two Democrats in cahoots with a handful of others in Russia can successfully unfold rumors, however they can’t upend the present system. In distinction, the elite’s makes an attempt to delegitimize the present regime point out a major rift inside what seems to exterior observers to be a monolithic regime.
And that in flip implies that the post-Putin energy battle has already begun, though the true Putin continues to be alive. It has damaged out as a result of the elites, each those that assist Putin and those that oppose him, consider that Putin is just too exhausted, too weak, or too politically moribund to make a distinction.
Would the elites offering cowl for Solovej be democratically inclined, or a minimum of against sustaining the present Putinite system? Given Russia’s political tradition, provided that its inhabitants has been taught to despise liberalism and democracy for greater than twenty years, and given the excessive probability that the institution elites are solely involved with reforming the system and to not substitute it, it’s probably that Solovey’s potential protectors will probably be conservative reformers who need to dismantle the worst elements of Putinism and attempt to finish the conflict towards Ukraine earlier than the variety of Russian deaths exceeds 300,000. Solovey himself describes his politics as liberal-conservative, which can even be acceptable modifiers to explain his protectors.
No matter whether or not Putin is bodily lifeless or alive, the fuss over his rumored dying clearly exhibits that he’s in deep trouble. Lots of of 1000’s of Russians have learn Normal SVR and Solovey’s claims. There are numerous extra speaking about it. Seeds of doubt have been planted concerning the “grandfather within the bunker,” as Putin’s critics name him.
And simply as the final and Solovey don’t have any proof of Putin’s dying, their critics don’t have any proof of his life, as a result of you possibly can all the time argue that the person who claims to be the true Putin is definitely a lookalike.
Russian politics are getting much more weird than normal. Fasten your seat belt: the approaching weeks and months will probably maintain much more surprises.
Alexander J. Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers College-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires and principle, he’s the writer of ten non-fiction books, in addition to ‘Imperial ends: The Decline, Collapse, and Revival of Empires” and “Why empires come up once more: Imperial Collapse and Imperial Revival in Comparative Perspective.”
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