Vladimir Putin President of Russia presented a stark thesis on the nature of reality Friday evening, continuing to take questions in a news conference after his spokesperson attempted to end it.
“You can’t trust anyone,” he told a Russian state media reporter. “You can only rely on me.”
It was a fitting end to a week in which Putin was especially busy building his version of reality at a time when a Russian victory in Ukraine appeared to be as far away as ever. Putin waxed forth on nuclear doctrine, prisoner swaps with the US, alleged Polish revanchism, and even the “extremely harsh” methods of European zoos in a marathon of public appearances that began Monday with a televised drive across Russia’s broken bridge to Crimea.
The Kremlin released over three hours of video of Putin meeting with his “human rights council” on Wednesday. It published a film on Thursday depicting Putin promising to continue his attacks on Ukraine while appearing so cheerful, Champagne flute in hand, that some onlookers mistook him for intoxicated.
And, speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of a regional summit in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, Putin dismissed the suggestion that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may be hampered.
“The special military operation is progressing. Everything is stable for us there,” Putin added, referring to the Kremlin’s assault in Ukraine. “There aren’t any problems or issues there right now.”
The majority of what Putin stated echoed his previous statements, and much of it was untrue. On Ukraine, he said that “in the end, we will have to strike a settlement” to end the conflict, but he did not mention being willing to recognize Ukrainian sovereignty. In response to the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout on Thursday, Putin stated that Russia “would not say no to performing more of this work in the future.”
His run of appearances, though, was a message in and of itself: that of a president who, despite an economy sagging under sanctions and Russia’s massive military defeats, is attempting to depict himself as healthy, awake, and still in power.
The flurry of activity contrasts with his withdrawal from the spotlight in November, when he held only one extended public engagement from Nov. 10 to 20 – an absence that the Kremlin did not explain.
“The attack aircraft are fighting fantastically, as are the the’sushki,'” Putin added, using a miniature to refer to the military’s Sukhoi warplanes.
“Excellent, simply excellent”
He then used a rhetorical question to explain Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, stating Ukraine was to blame because it had targeted the Kerch Strait Bridge to Crimea, which Russia needs to supply its front-line troops.
Some on social media expressed astonishment that the Kremlin released the video, considering that Putin — whose sobriety and self-control are key to his carefully manufactured image in Russia — appeared to be tipsy as he swayed back and forth. But, according to Golosov, projecting Putin as pleasant and calm while discussing his country’s deadly conflict proved effective for the Kremlin’s spin doctors.