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The Daily Vertical: The Tsar Has No Clothes (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

A month after Vladimir Putin's big live call-in show, it seems some of the participants aren't exactly doing so well.

Consider Ramazan Dzhalaldinov. He appealed to Putin about living conditions and extortion by local authorities in his home village of Kenkhi in Chechnya.

His house was burned to the ground and he was forced to flee. And now the village is cordoned off by police, who are harassing locals.

And then there's the case of workers at a fish-processing plant on Shikotan Island in the Russian Far East who complained about unpaid wages.

As a result of multiple criminal cases launched against the plant's management, it is now on the verge of bankruptcy and the workers risk losing their jobs.

They have even sent another appeal to Putin to stop the investigations that they, themselves, called for in the first place.

What this all suggests is that Putin's highly personalized and centralized system of rule is breaking down.

It suggests that the regime's bread-and-circuses style of governance is reaching its limits.

Putin's annual call-in show is one of the regime's main legitimizing rituals.

It is designed to showcase the Kremlin leader as a hands-on problem solver who can tackle everything from macroeconomics to local disputes.

And in retrospect, this year's extravaganza exposed that Putin has no solutions on either count.

He can't fix Russia's big structural problems. And he seems powerless to reach in and solve smaller local ones.

The Tsar, it appears, has no clothes.

But hey, at least he can still put on a good show.

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