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The Power Vertical

Putin's Bad Internet Week

A woman looks at a computer monitor displaying the main page of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's election campaign website.
A woman looks at a computer monitor displaying the main page of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's election campaign website.
Vladimir Putin is having a very bad week online. 
The Russian premier once derisively dismissed the Internet as "50 percent pornography." But with more and more of his compatriots getting wired and web savvy he has had no choice but to at least try and embrace the medium. And the results have not been pretty.
Putin posted his presidential campaign platform online today on a slick new website featuring flattering photos of him skiing, playing hockey, fishing, hunting, and riding horseback. The most popular comments that initially appeared on the site, however, were somewhat less flattering -- to say  the least. 
"Please leave politics," wrote a man identified as Andrei Antonenko. "We understand that power is like a drug, but this would be a dignified act." Another man, Arkady Vishnev, suggested that dropping out of the March 4 presidential election "would be the most useful thing you could still do for the country." Svetlana Sorokina, a well-known blogger, also called on Putin to resign as prime minister and quit the presidential race to prevent "the situation to become a revolutionary one."
Another commenter, Mikhail Meshkov wrote: "I'm tired of you. I've already tolerated you for 12 years and it's still the same. If you win [another term] a lot of my friends are thinking about leaving Russia. Do you need this? Do we? I don't. I want to live in a normal country. So get out before its too late "
The negative comments were quickly removed from the site and were replaced by comments praising Putin and calling on him to impose censorship and to take measures to halt the financing of NGOs from abroad. 
But in the latest incident of the Kremlin getting punked by Russia's agile blogging community, they were preserved on LiveJournal with helpful before-and-after screen grabs
As a result, the controversy over the comments overshadowed the launch of Putin's electoral platform everywhere except the state-run media.
Today's Internet fail came just a day after Putin tried to use one of his tried-and-true tactics of dressing down a subordinate on television -- but was later harshly rebuked in cyberspace. 
During a televised videoconference with regional governors on Tuesday, Putin claimed that hot water fees had risen by 40 percent in the Kirov Oblast -- which is led by Nikita Belykh, the only opposition figure holding a high government post in Russia. "Why on earth did hot water prices jump 40 percent?" Putin asked.
When he learned that Belykh was on vacation, he ordered Deputy Governor Aleksei Kuznetsov to "send him a little signal."
In the end, however, it was Putin who got a signal -- sent Wednesday via Belykh's blog on LiveJournal.
Putin was mistaken about the price hike, Belykh wrote in a post complete with photos of documents proving his claim. The apparent 40 percent price increase was actually an accounting error that has long been corrected. And as far as his vacation goes, Belykh wrote the following: "Those who follow my work know that I don't abuse my vacation privileges, to put it mildly. Over three years, I've accumulated 131 unused vacation days."
This week's embarrassments were only the latest incidents of the Kremlin getting outmaneuvered online. 
When President Dmitry Medvedev tried to address the protests following the contested December 4 parliamentary elections on his Facebook page, he faced a deluge of negative comments. 
When, a website with alleged links to the security services, posted embarrassing recordings of Boris Nemtsov's telephone calls, the opposition was quickly able to use the Internet to control the narrative -- changing the subject from Nemtsov's behavior to the illegality of the phone taps. 
And when an unflattering photo of anti-corruption blogger Aleksei Navalny with exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky showed up in a Yekaterinburg newspaper last week, it was quickly proven to be a photoshopped fake. Navalny's supporters quickly posted the original photo online -- showing Navalny with billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. They followed up with a series of hilarious photoshopped images of Navalny with space aliens, Josef Stalin, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 
“Vladimir Putin and his team do not understand the Internet,” Navalny told "The New York Times" after the incident.
They also do not appear to understand the new political environment they are living in.
-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Internet,Vladimir Putin

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: La Russophobe from: USA
January 12, 2012 22:09
Putin may not understand the Internet, but it seems Navalny doesn't understand the court system.

Luckily for Putin, the vast majority of Russians have no Internet access and therefore are not influenced by it. Putin's understanding of television, which his government owns lock, stock and barrel, is rather better -- and that is the source from which the vast majority of Russians get their news.
In Response

by: Sergey from: Chicago, USA
January 14, 2012 15:07
"Luckily for Putin, the vast majority of Russians have no Internet Access and therefore are not influenced by it "

And why would Putin have launched the website if the "vast majority of Russians" had no access to internet ? What exactly the "vast majority" is in your calculations ? I thought we've already covered it on one of the previous forums about Internet access rate in Russia. As of June 2010 it was reported at 42.8% of the Russian Population or 59,700,000 users. It's hardly to have come down in the past year and half.

So can you please check the facts (other than your own) before producing another nonsense.

by: Catherine Fitzpatrick from: New York, NY
January 13, 2012 00:44
When I look at this story, I see it basically as this: one power grouping in the Kremlin is using its administrative resources against another.

When you look at who owns the Internet in Russia, you see that it's all in hands of people close to the Kremlin:

When there are clashes of power groupings, it has long been the case that in the interstices, ordinary people and social movements can gain a foothold. But they can also merely be whiplashed and exploited.

My own take on the "oligarch switcheroo" is that it's about in fact reinforcing the notion that Navalny is close to Prokhorov, an oligarch who will oppose Putin, although he has accommodated him in the past (and that may be the plan, to have him serve as a foil). So then either either or both can be coopted or ditched, as needed. It also sends an underlying message that oligarchs are replaceable or interchangeable, literally, as ordinary people who don't like the rich and feel resentful of them can then apply that hatred to Navalny, too.

by: Anonymous from: USA
January 13, 2012 04:52
“Vladimir Putin and his team do not understand the Internet,” Navalny told "The New York Times"

Let's hope not, otherwise they could censor the Internet like China, or shut it down completely like Myanmar/Burma.

by: Dianannette Wisemartin from: Anaheim CA
January 14, 2012 06:49
to: Mr Vladimir Putin

You are a very intelligent and powerful man I beleve all the critics they say it's from the protest they don't like you run for a president in the election but I know you're strong to past this time.

And remember "The fame and the fortune" it's consecuences of
historics things"

You know as a future president of Russia the important of the global peace depends of your country.

There is only one success to be able to spend your life in your own way. You're dream come true." In Politics Lives and Loves
We always going to win".

"You run with the rest of Politicians try with the best ".

I hope this help in your campaign


Dianannette Wisemartin

by: Ben
January 14, 2012 13:48
American administration and the liberal media often meddle sencelessly in Russian internal policy: rewaded the unknown Russian women organization instead of famouse "soldiers` mothers",rewarded woman-reporter called "drain tank of FSB",boost the unknown somewhere Navalny instead of opposition leaders.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
January 15, 2012 01:42
@Ben and Diananette
Once more, I did not see the US government mentioned anywhere in this article...just "whataboutism" or Putin worship from the likes of you both. How much does the Kremlin pay you to post this nonsense?
In Response

by: Mark from: Victoria
January 20, 2012 21:26
How much is the State Department paying you to critique comments? I think we can dispense with the notion that everyone who has an opinion different from yours must be getting paid to do so. Unless your position is that your opinion is the only one worth defending for free. Is it?

If a runoff is forced (which seems to be the goal here, since Boris Nemtsov is a washed-up has-been now that Navalny is in town who likely would not even poll his usual 3% - 4% of the vote idf he were allowed to run, and Nsavalny is not running) the most likely be Genady Zyuganov and his Communists. It's both amazing to me that the foreign-based forces arrayed against Putin seem to be okay with the idea of a Russia once more under communist rule, and touching that people like Mikhail Meshkov believe a Zyuganov government would promptly make Russia "a normal country".

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or