At a dinner with journalists Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took aim at one of Russia's most beloved popular fiction writers, Boris Akunin -- suggesting that he has made common cause with the opposition due to his Georgian heritage.
Earlier in the day, Akunin, whose real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili, joined a group of cultural luminaries to form a League of Voters to assure a more transparent presidential election on March 4.
"As far as I know, he's an ethnic Georgian," Putin said about Akunin. "I understand that he could not have accepted Russia's actions during [the] armed conflict between Georgia and Russia," Putin said.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service today, Akunin fired back.
I'm not taking this seriously. That is how he was trained in his special [KGB] school. It is his normal method of smearing an opponent. I don't feel smeared. OK, I'm Georgian, so what? There are people of many ethnicities in our country. Actually, he was hinting that since I'm an ethnic Georgian, it means I'm an enemy of Russia. That is what he meant....
I have a feeling that whatever action Putin takes now, it only works to his detriment. The system has degraded so much that it keeps digging its own grave. I swear to God, I have a strong feeling that Vladimir Putin's time in history is coming to an end.
Akunin also responded skeptically to Putin's suggestion that he is prepared to meet with members of the opposition, including Akunin.
I have strong doubts that such a meeting would be possible at this stage. I think Vladimir Putin only said it as a figure of speech. Why would he want a public meeting with people who would tell him unpleasant things?...
Any such meeting will make sense only if it is absolutely open and if every word uttered at it becomes known to the public.
Just another sign of the times. Not much I can add to this, but thought it was worth sharing.
-- Brian Whitmore