Andrew Osborn: Vladimir Putin - the gremlin in the Kremlin
Russia’s 'squeezed middle’ is disenchanted with Mr Putin, as his election humiliation shows – even his allies are getting nervous about his plans.
As Vladimir Putin nurses a rare electoral hangover, he will want to forget a recent incident that opened up the first crack in his once unassailable cult of personality. Sharply dressed in a blue suit, the diminutive Russian Prime Minister clambered into a boxing ring in Moscow a few weeks ago to congratulate a Russian martial arts fighter on savagely beating his American opponent.
Mr Putin, who has a black belt in judo, loves a good fight himself and the symbolism of Russia defeating its old Cold War enemy must have appealed to him. But instead of being given the hero treatment he has revelled in for the last decade, the crowd began to boo, jeer and whistle. “Go away!” one man could be heard shouting.
VVP, as he is affectionately known, appeared thrown for a second, but swiftly recovered his composure. His silken spokesman was quick to claim that the booing was directed at the defeated American fighter, while a female Kremlin youth activist asserted even more improbably that people in the allegedly inebriated crowd were venting their anger at not being able to leave and empty their bladders.