The Kremlin has shifted to damage control mode after Vladimir Putin’s latest PR stunt was derailed by a public show of disgust for him.
The Russian leader made a show of his alleged visit to Ukraine’s Mariupol over the weekend, in which people identified by the Kremlin as local residents treated him as their savior, thanking him for Russia’s “help” and calling their new home a “little piece of heaven.”
In a brief part of the video that had apparently been overlooked by Putin’s team, however, a woman was heard shouting, “It’s all untrue, it’s all for show!” just as the Russian leader began reading his lines. Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin could be seen grinning uncomfortably as Putin’s security team set off to track down the lone protester.
Two days after the off-script comments were noticed in the video released by the Kremlin, that version was replaced on the official Kremlin website with a version in which the party crasher had been edited out, the independent outlet Mozhem Obyasnit noted Tuesday.
Putin’s alleged visit to the city—his first trip to Ukrainian territory since the start of his war—was the closest to the frontline he’d ever set foot. And despite the glowing testimonials from supposed local residents broadcast by Russian state television, many locals apparently saw right through the propaganda.
“Nobody fucking needs us here. Everything is done for a picture on TV, so that people in Russia will watch,” one resident wrote in a Telegram channel devoted to local news.
Others questioned why Putin didn’t visit the parts of the city decimated by his own military.
“And why take him there, he was only taken to places that were preserved and new buildings. Nobody will show him the empty pits under the foundations of destroyed houses.”
Anton Gerashchenko, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian government, seemed to suggest on Monday that Putin may have sent a body double to Mariupol.
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