The Pandemic Serves Putin's Purposes Very Nicely

A global crisis plays a convenient role in the Russian president’s scheme to keep his job.
March 30, 2020, 7:55pm

MOSCOW -- When Russian President Vladimir Putin recently asked Parliament to reset his term limit so he could run again in four years and stay in power until 2036, anti-corruption activists called for protests. But just hours later, the Kremlin issued a ban on public gatherings in Moscow, citing concerns over the novel coronavirus. People found ways to protest anyway, posting signs online from their living rooms.

But Putin is taking advantage of the pandemic to keep the calls for democracy indoors.

“It is clear that Putin wants to stay in power as long as possible,” said a protester who'd left her home to stand on a street in the capital. “It goes against all the principles of a normal world.”

What's even more maddening is that Putin wasn’t elected to begin with. Former President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin as prime minister in 2000, then resigned. Through a constitutional loophole, Yeltsin had effectively named Putin as his successor without ever calling a vote.

Putin used another loophole in 2008, when the constitution barred him from running for a third consecutive term as president. After his longtime colleague Dmitry Medvedev won that year, the new president appointed Putin as prime minister.

Many remain skeptical that Putin relinquished any power during that time to Medvedev, whom he named prime minister when he re-assumed the presidency in 2012.

With his final term ending yet again, Putin’s using the distraction of a global pandemic to push his amendment—and, on the same day the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, the country’s parliament passed the term reset.

VICE News reports from Moscow on how a deadly virus is breathing new life into Putin’s political career.