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Putin Loses Handle On Military Inspection

  • Mike Eckel

Russia President Vladimir Putin looks on, bemused, as the handle on the door of the armored SUV comes off in the hand of General Aleksandr Shevchenko, while the chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, looks on, appalled.

Russia President Vladimir Putin looks on, bemused, as the handle on the door of the armored SUV comes off in the hand of General Aleksandr Shevchenko, while the chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, looks on, appalled.

As presidential inspections of Russian military equipment go, this was not a good one.

President Vladimir Putin traveled to the Black Sea city of Sochi on May 12, where he met with military officials and weapons suppliers eager to show off some of Russia's latest technology and equipment.

According to Russian news reports, the man who served as Putin’s tour guide -- General Aleksandr Shevchenko, the director of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Armored Directorate -- was eager to show Putin the specially built armored model of an SUV built by the Russian automotive giant UAZ.

With television cameras rolling, the entourage -- which included the chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov -- walked to the front passenger-side door and Putin tried to open the door. An officer appearing to be Shevchenko went to help him, pulling on the door handle -- until he pulled it off.

As Putin appeared to smirk, and with Gerasimov visibly appalled, video broadcast by the Kremlin-friendly TV channel LifeNews showed Shevchenko tossing the broken handle through the open window onto the passenger seat, and then reaching in and struggling to open the door from the inside.

“Well done,” Putin was quoted as saying by Vedomosti.

After failing to open the front door, Shevchenko then goes to the rear passenger door and opens it, though it’s unclear from the video whether Putin ended up climbing in.

The incident wasn’t the first time that Putin has found himself at the mercy of malfunctioning machinery.

Five years ago, he was treated to a test drive of a new- model Lada, whose manufacturer has a less-than-stellar reputation for quality. Putin took the wheel in front of the cameras but had a hard time getting the car to start.

There have been other smirk-worthy equipment malfunctions in recent years, too.

In 2015, during the Victory Day parade in Red Square-- where Russian and Soviet weaponry has been shown off for decades -- a next generation T-14 Armata tank stalled and had to be towed away by another vehicle.

During the same event, in the procession leading up to Red Square, a Buk M-1 antiaircraft missile launcher appeared to catch fire, spewing smoke across the thousands of parade watchers. Firefighters ultimately showed up to extinguish the blaze.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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