I wrote yesterday about the Putin Death Watch. There are not a lot of updates on the situation, just more rumors (including one where Putin is in Switzerland for the birth of his child with Olympic Gymnast Alina Kabaeva).
I’m still not willing to jump to the conclusion that Putin is dead or that he has been ousted. However, something is clearly going on.
One thing that stands out in all of this is the fact that Russian state television is reporting that Putin has disappeared. Not only that, they are also informing people that the videos and photos the Kremlin is releasing are from archival footage.
Meanwhile, there was this drama last night:
After some sleuthing, it was discovered that the Kremlin has a parade scheduled for the 18th of March to celebrate “the annexation of Crimea”.
And the Russian blogosphere was not ready to let the Putin Death Watch rumors die.
One Russian blogger wrote that if Putin is incapacitated then the authorities need to make that known, and call for new elections as required by the Russian Constitution.
Russia’s Constitution is very clear about the line of succession, and requirements for replacing the president should he fall seriously ill or die.
Article 92 states [emphasis added]:
2. The President of the Russian Federation shall cease to exercise his (her) powers before the end of his (her) term in the event of his (her) resignation, persistent inability for health reasons to carry out the powers invested in him (her), or impeachment. Presidential elections shall be held before the expiration of three (3) months from the date of the early termination of presidential office.
3. In all cases where the President of the Russian Federation is unable to fulfil his (her) duties, they shall be temporarily delegated to the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation [the Prime Minister, currently Dmitry Medvedev]. The Acting President of the Russian Federation shall not have the right to dissolve the State Duma, call a referendum or to submit proposals for amendments to and the revision of the provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
But there was also concern that Prime Minister Medvedev had disappeared. His social media footprint had been noticeably absent since the 10th of March. But the Government released a photo of him meeting with Russia’s bankers (both state-owned and private) last night. However, it is unclear when the photo was taken.
This photo was then posted on Medvedev’s Instagram account:
Again, it is not dated, and it was not posted to his Twitter feed. I had assumed he had the two linked so that the Instagram post would automatically be Tweeted, but that appears to not be the case.
In addition, there were rumors that Medvedev’s Twitter account had been hacked on Wednesday night, though I never saw the tweets myself.
Meanwhile, a rumor of an internal coup going on where the so-called “hardliners” have either taken over or at least gained more power is making the rounds. In this scenario, either the current Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, or the former Defense Minister, Sergei Ivanov, have taken control, and the “party of war” has gained the upper hand.
I am more inclined to lean toward this version due to the fact that certain clans are not pleased with the way the war in Ukraine is going.
This does not mean that Putin will leave office, it just means that some reshuffling may take place in what I would call middle management, aides and maybe some cabinet positions.
We really know nothing more than we did before. What has become even more clear through this experience is that the regime is very isolated. And they are isolating themselves deliberately. Something that is very dangerous for both Russia and its neighbors.
I don’t expect any more news until the Kremlin releases a statement as they have promised to do.