Days after the Wagner Group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, marched to Moscow in an attempted coup, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly appeared to assert his power and demonstrate unwavering control.
In a rare display on Thursday, Putin engaged with the public, warmly interacting with children and posing for selfies with enthusiastic supporters, the Financial Times reported.
Putin made a special trip to Derbent, a city near the Caspian Sea, to commemorate the holiday of Eid al-Adha.
“Using all kinds of methods for a desperately needed reputation boost?” Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s internal ministry, asked on Twitter, sharing footage of Putin in Dagestan.
Putin’s public march was particularly notable, considering his inclination to maintain considerable physical distance from others. The Russian president is renowned for preferring excessively long tables that create an exaggerated separation between himself and his counterparts.
In one Twitter post, Putin is seen kissing a kid, who tries to pose for a photo with him.
According to a report by Russian state broadcaster TASS, Putin was in Derbent to host a meeting on tourism, meet with the head of the Republic of Dagestan Sergey Melikov and participate in several other events.
Last week on Saturday, Prigozhin declared that he had reached an agreement to withdraw his mercenary forces in Russia to prevent additional bloodshed. The Wagner militia had advanced perilously close to Moscow before the deal was made.
According to political scientist Mark Galeotti, the attempted mutiny that undermined Putin’s authority could mark the commencement of the Russian leader’s downfall. Galeotti wrote in The Sunday Times that the endgame for the Russian president has started.