Tuesday, October 7, was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 68th birthday, and, in keeping with his Soviet-style personality cult, it would normally have been an occasion for Putin to bask in public fanfare. But this year was different. Putin is holed up at his residence outside Moscow, where he has been since early April, avoiding infection from the coronavirus that is again rampant in Russia, while unrest surges in three countries of the former Soviet Union, and France and Germany are pushing for new EU economic sanctions against Russia because of the poisoning of Russian democrat Alexei Navalny.
In honor of Putin’s birthday, the Russian news agency Tass released the final episode of a series entitled 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin, a special interview project to commemorate Putin’s twenty years as leader. In this episode Putin does not discuss pressing economic issues or international affairs, but rather his hobbies, family and other personal matters. Significantly, while Putin mentions that he enjoys his “sweet” grandchildren, he also confesses to his interviewer that “when you occupy this position, sometimes it feels like you cease to be a human being and become nothing more than a mere function”.
No wonder Putin has begun feeling like an automaton. Bad things have been happening to Putin in battalions lately. On July 9, just as the number of coronavirus cases in Russia had begun to decline and the virus seemed under control, mass protests erupted in the Siberian district of Khabarovsk over the arrest on unsubstantiated murder charges of the popular governor, Sergei Furgal.
Read more: The Daily Beast