In the wake of a failed mutiny and amidst ongoing tensions with Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has broken his self-imposed isolation and started engaging with crowds, making public appearances, and involving himself in retail politics. This notable shift in behavior comes after a period of seclusion during the pandemic, where Putin opted for extreme distancing and virtual meetings.
Although Putin has always distanced himself from populist retail politics, he now seems to be embracing interactions with crowds in carefully orchestrated events. These efforts are aimed at portraying himself as both in tune and in control of the situation. His recent engagements with cheering crowds have included visits to Dagestan, Kronstadt, as well as hosting top African leaders in St. Petersburg.
While Putin’s decision to engage with crowds is largely seen as a personal choice, it serves the purpose of reaffirming his legitimacy and garnering support from the Russian people, particularly in the aftermath of the attempted rebellion. However, it is worth noting that compared to other world leaders, Putin’s interactions with the public remain limited, though the shift from his previous isolationist approach is unmistakable.
Analysts speculate that Putin’s increased public activity may be connected to the upcoming presidential election slated for next March, where he is expected to seek a fifth term. Although his victory seems highly likely, the Kremlin will closely monitor turnout and margins to ensure continued support from the Russian elite.
By showcasing his ability to connect with the public, Putin aims to demonstrate his effectiveness in maintaining control and support within the nation. These recent interactions serve as a display of strength to counter the doubts created by the failed mutiny and ongoing geopolitical tensions.