With the advent of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, you may be wondering what's so bad about Vladimir Putin? After all, this compassionate leader just released Khodorkovsky early after 10 years in prison. This oil tycoon's crime was that he was not only richer and smarter than Putin, but he had backed a rival political party. Putin also graciously pardoned those two women from the punk rock group Pussy Riot sentenced for "hooliganism." But don't ask Putin about gay rights because that would be an abomination.
Didn't the always photogenic Putin just discover ancient Greek vessels in the shallow water of the Black Sea when scuba-diving? And the ecologically- minded Putin also donned a mechanized hangglider to point the way for a flock of endangered cranes who apparently didn't know where to migrate on their own. Looking closely at his photos, you may have noticed that he is actually growing younger and more hair. The man defies aging. "What an attractive person!" you might say if you knew nothing more about him. The one who knows him best, his ex-wife, Lyudmila, does not call him "the spy who loved me" but rather "a vampire," and she should know.
If I were writing this blog in Russia, and if Putin read this, and if I were political, popular, or powerful, then I can assure you I would need to hire some protection from the thugs that would inevitably appear on my doorstep with baseball bats to assault me. This is what happens to the courageous journalists who tell the truth Putin does not want publicized.
Putin's Achilles heel is his disdain for popular will. His crime, among many, has been the corrosion of hope- the hope that Russia could have an enlightened democratic political process that is responsive to its citizens. The cult of personality lives on - but only in Putin's mind.
It took Sochi for the release of these prisoners to happen. Vladimir Putin does not care what his people think, but he does care about his status in the international community. Perhaps Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina of Pussy Riot have it right when they suggest nominating Khodorkovsky for president. But Khodorkovsky is not eager to return to a land where Putin's will rules. For more information read Masha Gessen's books, The Man Without a Face or Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. If the Colbert reference escapes you make sure you view the youtube video from February 5, 2014 of his interview with Pussy Riot. It's one of the best Colbert interviews ever!