Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vladimir Putin is not the most popular man in the western world.
His government’s persecution – and prosecution – of those who oppose his regime and his self-serving, autocratic rule do not sit well alongside frivolous, European concerns such as human rights.
And so the news that Pussy Riot’s appeal against their two-year prison sentence for hooliganism allegedly motivated by religious hatred, has been adjourned because one of the trio, allegedly under duress, requested that her lawyer be changed.
This development fits nicely into the Putin-as-a-latter-day-Stalin narrative so common in the West. Surely it is a Kremlin-backed conspiracy to frustrate the course of justice and dissuade others from dissenting!
But look a little closer. It appears that our man Vlad, quite rashly forgetting his previously stated refusal to avoid political interference in the original trial, was so overcome by sympathy for the women’s cause that he implored Russia’s fiercely independent courts to refrain from punishing their crime “too harsly”. I confess myself distinctly reassured.
Putin’s adorable little protégé, Russia’s Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev, went even further. Early last month, he said that the group should be given only a suspended sentence.
Unfortunately, it appears that he has a history of making blithe, well-intentioned statements of no consequence: we thank him for his contribution, but regretfully must move on.
Of far greater interest is the apparent transformation of Russia’s leading man from Stalin 2.0 to an enlightened, proto-European democrat.
Only the crustiest of cynics could continue to accuse him of exploiting these events to try to rehabilitate his reputation at a time of rising anti-Kremlin feeling. I give you Feminist Putin, Russia’s most right-on autocrat. Please act accordingly.