Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has enough problems to keep him working “around the clock,” according to the Russian government news agency TASS. But even with a collapsing economy and a bloody border conflict with Ukraine, Putin is planing a short vacation in Siberia Tuesday.
Putin plans to take the day off to celebrate his birthday, even though Russian government spokespersons say that the president has always worked through his birthday in the past. Vladimir Putin turns 62 on October 7.
While Kremlin mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov would not disclose the exact spot where Putin plans his birthday vacation, he said that the Russian leader will spend the day somewhere in the Siberian taiga, a massive nature preserve in the heart of Siberia.
Putin will be relaxing “some 300 to 400 kilometers [180 to 240 miles] away from the nearest settlement,” Peskow said, but he would not give away anything else about the Vladimir Putin vacation and refused to say who would be at Putin’s side as he got away from it all in the middle of the Siberian nowhere.
The vacation comes at a particularly sensitive time for Russia, and for Putin’s presidency. Russia’s economy has been on a steady downturn since Putin retook the country’s presidency in 2012, and is now said to be teetering “on the edge of recession,” according to The Economist magazine.
While the country’s economy was already slowing when Putin became president again, The Economist blames his refusal to modernize the way Russia uses its oil and gas revenues for continuing the downturn.
Sanctions imposed by the United States and other western nations, as well as numerous western companies fleeing Russia, have only made Russia’s economic crisis worse, the magazine says.
Reports that Vladimir Putin planned to impose strict government controls over the economy also scared investors — reports that Putin denied last week, saying that despite international tensions and Russia’s increasingly cozy relations with China, he would maintain open relations with the west.
For most presidents, a stagnating economy inevitably translates into plummeting pubic dissatisfaction — and lowered approval ratings in the polls. But for Vladimir Putin, a funny thing happened on the way to the recession.
“Putin’s approval ratings in September hit the highest level since the year 2000 — standing at a whopping 86 percent, according to The Levada Center, the top independent pollster in Russia. That number, astonishingly, is four points higher than Putin’s rating in April, when his annexation of Crimea from Ukraine sent his public approval soaring.”
Western analysts continue to say they expect the Russian love of Vladimir Putin to turn sour any time now, but this week, Putin feels confident enough to take a brief vacation even as crises seem to confront his country from all sides.