Jun 30, 2023, 8:14am EDT

What experts make of Putin’s rare public appearances after failed coup

Putin kisses a supporter in a street in Derbent in the southern region of Dagestan, Russia, June 28, 2023.
Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin via REUTERS

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The News

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a series of rare public appearances in recent days, less than a week after the Wagner mercenary group’s failed uprising against the Kremlin.

The Kremlin released footage of Putin being greeted by adoring crowds in the region of Dagestan, hugging and taking photos with supporters. He also attended a tech exhibition for Russian companies in Moscow, where he scribbled an illustration of a face on an interactive board.

We’ve curated insightful analysis from experts on what the appearances signal for Putin after his power was challenged over the weekend.

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  • Putin had made some televised addresses in the days since the Wagner group shot down Russian military helicopters and marched within 200 kilometers of Moscow. But he hadn’t made any grand public appearance like the one on Wednesday. He is now attempting ”to re-establish the charismatic basis for his waning authority,” Sergey Radchenko, historian and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said on Twitter. “Putin in a bunker (who reportedly flees Moscow at a time of a mutiny) doesn’t really come across as very charismatic.”
  • The public shows of support were also Putin’s way of trying to downplay what happened last weekend, Giorgi Revishvili of the Bush School at Texas A&M University told Semafor. “He wants to act as if nothing happened,” he said. “He wanted to show that people love him and he wanted to be with people.”
  • Putin has followed intense pandemic-related rules over the last three years, instituting quarantine periods and avoiding up-close contact with others. The event in Dagestan was a departure from that philosophy, The Washington Post’s Mary Ilyushina pointed out.
  • Meanwhile, questions remain about the whereabouts of top Russian generals Sergei Surovikin and Valery Gerasimov, who have not been seen in public since the rebellion. The Financial Times reported Thursday that Surovikin had been detained following U.S. intelligence reports that he had prior knowledge about the uprising.