Thursday, May 19, 2011

Vladimir Putin, Modern-Day Apostle?

There's an odd little story from the heartland of Russia about a group of women who worship Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Literally. The all-female group is described as a religious sect who have made Putin the object of their veneration, the group's leader, a woman calling herself Mother Fotina compares Putin with John the Apostle. Putin, she said, did some “unrighteous things” during his KGB career, but once he became president she claims he was “imbued with the Holy Spirit” and is now “wisely leading his flock”, in this case the nation of Russia. The sect's members dress as nuns, are vegetarians and conduct services where they pray for the success of Putin and sign patriotic Russian songs rather than hymns (A Kremlin spokesman said that Putin does not see himself as being on a mission from God...). A local Russian Orthodox priest, Father Alexei, dismisses the sect's teachings as “a nonsensical mixture of Orthodoxy, Catholicism, the occult, Buddhism and political information” (not sure how Catholicism and Buddhism make it into the mix there myself...), though Father Alexei adds that he doesn't think Mother Fotina herself is “a mad woman.”

Meanwhile on more earthly political matters, Putin is taking steps to bolster his position ahead of next year's presidential elections by calling for the creation of a “popular front” that would draw support from all corners of Russian society to select a candidate for next year's polls – one would assume that their popular choice would be Putin himself... It is another sign, political commentators say, that Putin intends a return to the presidency.

At the same time Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov has also thrown his hat into the political ring by taking control of the Pravoye Dyelo or “Right Cause” Party. Prokhorov may be best known in the United States as the new owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, but he is also Russia's third-richest man, with a net worth of more than $22 billion and control of a large chunk of Russia's gold and nickel reserves. Prokhorov could be tempting fate, it has long been assumed that Mikhail Khodorkovsky's own entry into local politics in Siberia is what led to his downfall as chairman of the powerful energy conglomerate Yukos and his eventual imprisonment on tax fraud charges. So far Prokhorov has been careful to not openly challenge the Kremlin like Khodorkovsky did; Right Cause has positioned itself as a pro-business, anti-corruption party, without directly criticizing the current ruling regime. Prokhorov has promised that Right Cause will win the second-largest block of seats in this years elections for the Russian Duma (the Russian parliament). And with it's pro-business/anti-corruption platform, Right Cause could be the perfect vehicle for a 2012 presidential run for current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev should United Russia select Putin as their candidate and if Dmitry decides he wants to take on the Boss in the 2012 elections.
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