Putin: Would you boo this man? Photo credit: World Economic Forum
More accustomed to adulation, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has apparently been booed by the audience at a martial arts event. The reports emerged hot on the heels of recent polls showing that Putin and his United Russia Party have suffered a significant dip in popularity ahead of the Russian parliamentary elections.
Putin clambered into the ring to congratulate Russian champion Fedor Emelianko after he beat American Jeff Monson. As the Russian PM took to the microphone, loud booing rang out around the stadium. According to The Washington Post, Russian television stations cut away from the aftermath of the fight, but footage was uploaded to YouTube and has gone viral.
Watch the video of Putin boo-gate below.
But surely the booing wasn’t directed at loveable, cuddly Putin?
US to blame. Of course not. The director of the Olimpsky stadium helpfully cleared up the matter by explaining that audience was in fact booing defeated US fighter Monson, reported the BBC.
Or maybe not. William Maudlin was unconvinced by the explanation at The Wall Street Journal Emerging Europe blog: “Two attendees interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said they’re certain the booing were directed at Putin himself, although they didn’t agree on the reason.” One of them suggested the audience was booing because they wanted to hear fighter Emelianko speak; the other thought the noise may have been “a planned provocation from Putin’s opponents”. So not directed at Putin, then.
Toilet trouble? Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that a spokesperson for Nashi, the pro-Kremlin youth group, said the crowd was booing because they were desperate to get to the loos.
‘End of an era’? Writing for The Guardian, Miriram Elder quoted Russian blogger Alexey Navalny as saying the televised booing was the “end of an era”. According to Elder, various commentators are unimpressed by alternative explanations for the incident, seeing it instead as “a sign that objection to Putin has spread beyond Russia’s small liberal opposition to the wider public since he announced his intention to return to the presidency next year”.
Occupy Moscow? Al Jazeera’s Sean Guillory explored the reasons why the Occupy movement has not spread to Russia, highlighting the fact that the country has weathered the global financial crisis relatively well: “[Russia] has no sovereign debt problem, no mortgage crisis, and no widespread household debt. According to Rosstat, overall unemployment is low, around six per cent,” he wrote. Guillory argued that where dissatisfaction does exist among Russians, there are few unifying outlets: “The Russian Left has been marginalised and fragmented. Trade unions are atrophied. The Communist Party speaks the rhetoric of socialism and worker’s rights but is unwilling to break with electoral politics.” According to Guillory, the only growing movement in Russia is the nationalist right.