Where is Putin? Russian President Absent on World Cup Football. It may have already been noticed by the attentive television viewer: the absence of Vladimir Putin on the World Cup in his Russia.
Putin was present at the opening match against Saudi Arabia (5-0), but since then he was no longer seen at the World Cup.
There is no unambiguous explanation for Putin’s absence. The Russian president is known to be more of an ice hockey enthusiast, says Russia correspondent Martijn Smiers. “Putin does it himself, he sometimes comes on TV and always scores a goal.”
Anyway, Putin himself was missing in the exciting knockout match against Spain. Instead, he had sent his unpopular prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. “No one knows for sure, but the Russians I spoke to, suspected that Medvedev had been sent because the Kremlin thought Russia would lose the game,” Smiers says. “It would not be nice if Putin were there, and Putin would turn his head in. It was going to be a glorious evening for Russia.”
In fact, something else is playing in the background. The presence of Medvedev typifies the division of roles between both.
“The tsar is considered good in Russia, his nobles are bad,” says Smiers. “Putin, for example, was shining on the opening day of the World Cup, while Medvedev announced a sharp increase in the retirement age, and Medvedev was allowed to clean up the troop, which included the eighth final against Spain, although things went differently.”
In any case, it has zero to do with the negative attention paid to Russia, for example, to the poisoning of double spy Sergej Skripal or the involvement in the MH17 disaster. “That does not play a role,” says Smiers. “Putin thinks that Russia does not have to be ashamed of anything.”
And then there are also Kremlin watchers who say: Putin has been president for so long, he is a bit faint. Smiers thinks that that is not too bad. “It is not that Putin has disappeared, he does come on television with other presidential duties, maybe he likes it that way.”
“I honestly do not think that the Dutch prime minister or king would be present at every group match if the World Cup were organised in the Netherlands,” says Smiers. “That’s nothing else here.”
Putin may well go to the quarterfinals against Croatia. His spokesman says it is not yet known. “In any case, it is incredibly good that Russia (70th on the FIFA world rankings) is in the quarterfinals, given their performance in recent years,” says Smiers. “Maybe Putin will find it an honour to be present.”