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Putin releases Khordokovsky, Pussy Riot and Greenpeace activists in canny political stroke

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Tiz the season to receive a Putin pardon it seems. In the past week, Vladimir Putin’s nemesis Mikhail Khordokovsky has been pardoned, while an amnesty looks set to see the release both of Pussy Riot and the 30 Greenpeace activists who have been languishing behind Russian bars.

This wave of imperial mercy once again proves just how canny a player Putin is. Having outmanoeuvred the US and Europe on almost every major recent sticking point, this latest move is another savvy stroke.

Mikhail Khordokovsky only had 9 months left on his sentence anyway. Having refused to request a pardon throughout his time in prison, it is clear that arms were twisted and deals were struck, resulting in his meticulously choreographed release and instant departure for Germany. Putin had turned an ongoing sore and a problem looming 9 months down the line into ‘magnanimity’. Putin had taken control of the narrative entirely and the story was no longer about Khordokovsky, but about Putin releasing him.

With the Winter Olympics imminent, there was a pressing need to change the conversation on Russia’s increasingly authoritarian behaviour. The perfect time then to release the cause celebres from his jails. First up – the Greenpeace activists. Well he’s made his point hasn’t he? He’s terrified them and any other activist that may have had ideas about airing Russia’s dirty laundry. He’s kept them in jail just long enough to achieve some serious intimidation and raise desperate uncertainty over their fate. And as for Pussy Riot – well they were always far more trouble in prison. They were never much of a band – or even particularly cogent critics of him – and if he hadn’t bothered arresting the in the first place, no-one would ever have heard of them.

With letters leaking out about the grim conditions they were being held in and a swathe of Western petitions demanding their release, again, by releasing them before anyone expected, he is controlling the story. Not to mention the fact that this will divert attention from other, less well known political prisoners who may actually pose more of a threat to his power and possibly diminish the focus on Russias increasingly worrying attitude towards homosexuality. The whole thing is dripping with cynical self interest, and yet despite that, it is still an outright Putin victory across the board, as his iron grip on Russia flirts briefly with a velvet glove

Written by Cyrus Bozorgmehr - Google+ Profile - More articles by Cyrus Bozorgmehr

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