#5 - JRL 2009-237 - JRL Home
Moscow Times
December 29, 2009
Putin's Watch, Music and Torso Top the Weird News of the Year
By Kevin O'Flynn

It was the first year of the Dmitry Medvedev Era, the first full calendar year under the new, younger guy, but it still continued to throw up enough odd and bizarre stories as the old era.

The other guy, Vladimir Putin, seemed to be hanging round as well in 2009, as if the pair had agreed beforehand on a good cop, bad cop routine.

The year began with a new behavior code for police that told them to stop cursing and drinking and to learn the national anthem.

Omitting a clause about not killing civilians was probably a mistake in hindsight, and by the end of the year, when a policeman not shooting anyone seemed to be a good day, there didnt seem to be any good cops left at all.

Luckily Gazprom, the squibillion-dollar state company with a worldwide business and almost certainly at least one person who speaks vaguely fluent English in its team, could be relied on to remain steady throughout 2009 until they moved into Africa. Forming a joint venture with their Nigerian gas equivalent so as to build a pipeline, they put a line through names such as Gazeria or Nigeriaprom, plumping instead for Nigaz. Say it out loud as a Gazprom spokesperson was asked to do by one intrepid reporter when the deal was announced.

The older but better built of the duo ruling this land continued to show off his bulging muscles in photos of him topless on a horse on a Siberian trip that flew round the world. His action-man adventures included diving to the bottom of Lake Baikal (this year in a mini-submarine, in 2010 solo).

A bigger shock came when the most muscly man in Russian politics seemingly linked up with 1970s sequin kings and queens ABBA. That is allegedly what happened on a summer night this year when a man bearing a close resemblance to Putin watched a private concert at a government residence. ABBA tribute group Bjorn Again sang Money, Money, Money as the six-person concert audience danced away hidden from clear view by a gauze curtain.

The Kremlin denied that Putin had been in attendance, as did the man or woman or perhaps even bureaucrat who initially confirmed the story and then rang up The Moscow Times the next day to deny having said anything about the concert. You did, though, didnt you?

Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated a reporter for ongoing heinous slander and satanic lies, prompting thousands of other reporters with guilty consciences to wonder if they were next until they learned that the reporter in question had accused a local abbess of threatening a pensioner with violence if she did not sell her house. Film rights are still available for that one if Hollywood is interested.

Vedomosti took the award for best and bravest investigative article, which also purely accidentally gave a plug to their most valuable advertisers, with a story about the expensive watches that Russias poorly paid politicians wear. The watches in the article, which cost up to $1 million, are weighed down with so much silver, diamonds, rubies, the shrunken heads of defeated foes and other knickknacks that it is a surprise that any politician can lift his hand up.

Putin showed his disapproval of the flash behavior of the nouveau riches toward the end of the year when he dismissed those who drive around in Lamborghinis as the equivalent of those who had gold teeth in Soviet times.

These people that show off and make a parade of their wealth while millions of Russians live rather modest lives are no different, he said on his annual televised call-in show.

Just a few months earlier, a worker at a metals factory in Tula helped relieve Putin of his own ostentatiousness when he asked him for his watch a $9,000 Blancpain. The prime minister handed it over in a second.

The year is not over yet, however, and the most vocal doctor in the country, Gennady Onishchenko, warned a few days ago that the Russian beer industry has been putting pure alcohol in beer, a fact or made-up myth known for years to anyone who listens to their taxi drivers.

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