Thoughts and questions after the Russian presidential inauguration

Tarnished by the protests?

The legacy of Vladimir Putin has achieved it’s high point and will likely never be the same. The country is divided and many Russians feel the blame can be laid at the feet of only one person, the man who takes such great pride in being in control.

The Putin legacy…

Julia Ioffe, Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker and Foreign Policy magazine caught this impromptu photo on her iphone as a child bolted away from his parents and cycled over to face down riot police.

The world watched the spectacle of protests, police violence and arrests while the inauguration proceeded in gala fashion as if nothing else mattered, a sad punctuation mark on the discontent that began with the disputed Duma elections in December and continued with yet another disputed election in March. Mr. Putin won with over 63% of the vote, however many Russians believe the margin of victory was assured with a little help from his friends.

Official results from the Central Election Commission.

A case for credibility is never good when the result of an election becomes a matter of humour amongst ordinary citizens. Partisan politics is one thing, but mockery is a sign of weakness.

карусель = carousel is the term for roving bands of voters bused from polling site to polling site to vote over and over again. путинка is a food and beverage brand that just happens to have the name “Putin” and цена победы means “the price of victory” and the price posted is the percentage of the vote awarded Mr. Putin by the Central Election Commission.

Speaking of being in control, is it normal for the administration to enforce a rigid dress code for the inauguration including the length of women’s hemlines? So called “face control” is one thing and of course one would expect invited guests to dress professionally for such an event, but to stipulate things like the length of a ladies’ skirt?

Women were expected to wear hemlines around the knees, dresses or suit skirts, and to stick with grey, black and blue colours.

Maybe we’re overly sensitive? We’re also wondering if officials frowned at the lady in the white/cream pantsuit shown above. Oops, white was reserved for Mrs. Putina, Mrs. Medvedeva, and Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko. A light rose/purple dress was chosen by Naina Yeltsin, widow of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

To be fair, the Obama inauguration committee had a dress code for the American presidential ceremony and the gala balls, but oddly the restrictions there were more to prevent two women from wearing the same style dress and laid out more guidance regarding plunging necklines. Perhaps Obama is a breast man?

Foreign heads of state are not invited to an inauguration but some diplomatic representatives are invited. Among the highest ranking guests were former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Mrs. Lyudmila Putin greeted Gerhard Schroeder (R) after the ceremony.

We did question why billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov was an invited guest on a list limited to 3,000 persons? Didn’t he just run against Mr. Putin and siphon off garner almost 9% of the opposition vote? Given his attendance at the protest rallies in the winter and including his presence at an anti-Putin rally just a day before the inauguration, we’re wondering about his supposed independence from the Kremlin.

Mikhail Prokhorov, standing centre/left, 06 May, one day before the inauguration.

Put us in the skeptical column at this point in time. As Prokhorov was the only opposition candidate invited to the inauguration, it begs the question as to where was the leading opposition vote getter, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov? Why was he not invited as well?

To some it seemed that Police were content to arrest anyone with a pulse…from marchers, bystanders to surprised citizens not involved with the rally.

Our next question is for the Moscow police: Are there any officials on staff who can count?

Seriously. The first estimates of the opposition crowds on 8 May was 5,000. Really? Even the pro-Kremlin newspapers were estimating 20,000+ for the event. Meanwhile out at Park Pobedy/Poklonnaya Hill the pro-Putin rally was estimated by police at numbers close to 50,000. That turned out to be closer to 5,000.

We understand that it was sometimes difficult to get an accurate count, given the amount of tear gas being thrown at bystanders and marchers alike. However now that the smoke has cleared it seems that officials are willing to admit that the opposition drew closer to 50 to 60,000 (a couple of European news services have estimated anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 given that the locations were so spread out).

There is a significant credibility deficit however when you say 5,000 only to later admit to a much larger number of 60,000 so you can imagine why most in the free media find it difficult to take any number you throw out with anything more than a grain of salt.

Police helicopter.

Those were your helicopters with police insignia hovering above the crowds, right? You might want to ditch the abacus method as that doesn’t seem to work very well in a rotating helicopter. As the government allocated 26 Million rubles (just under $900,000 in USD) for the inauguration itself, we’d suggest that somewhere in that budget one could find room for a couple of modern digital calculators. Just sayin’…

Speaking of numbers, you released the number of arrests on Sunday as 400 then later revised that number to 556. Did 156 Russian citizens somehow sneak into the jails while you were sleeping, or what happened?

Speaking of numbers, last Thursday out-going President Medvedev bestowed state awards to 57 individuals. Members of the media were asked to leave the hall but later Izvestia and the Russian Information Agency reported that Central Elections Commission Chief Vladimir E. Churov was given an award in secret. Is that true? Churov’s name was on the approved list prior to the awards ceremony.

CEC Chief Churov presented President Putin the official “certificate of the presidency” on 8 May at 1:30pm, Moscow.

Central Elections Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov presented President Putin with his official ID documents on Tuesday.

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