Russia’s Bo-Toxic President Returns

Vladimir Putin plans to return to the Russian presidency in March 2012, but his extravagant vanity has radically damaged the strongman image that he spent the last 12 years building. Indeed, Russians heckle Putin not because he has turned Russia into an industrial banana republic, but because he no longer inhabits his role convincingly.

MOSCOW – When a tsar is treated with mockery, rather than regarded with awe, it is time for him to consider retirement, or to prepare for a palace coup. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who intends to stage a glorious return to the Kremlin as President in the election scheduled for March next year, should reflect on that choice.

This year began with a vigorous (by Russian standards) Internet petition urging Putin to take the first option. Then the whole country laughed when, during his customary visit to a patriotic summer camp run by Nashi (a pro-Putin youth movement), he demonstrated his physical prowess by scaling a rock-climbing wall, only to find that he couldn’t climb down.

Now Russians wonder what has happened to their leader’s face. His new smooth-faced appearance has sparked rumors of Botox, or even plastic surgery. Vampire jokes abound.

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