Wednesday, 6 Jul 2022

Putin’s mask slips! Leader ‘fails to show empathy’ in ‘set-piece photo op’ with soldiers

Vladimir Putin visits wounded Russian soldiers in Moscow hospital

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Footage showing the Russian leader touring a hospital in Moscow alongside Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, was released earlier this week. Putin met servicemen at the Central Military Clinical Hospital on Wednesday, asking the soldiers who were injured in the invasion of Ukraine about their families and their plans for the future.

The Kremlin leader, dressed in a clinical overcoat, then wished them a speedy recovery.

Putin spoke with doctors at the hospital, who assured the Russian leader that they were fully stocked with all medical supplies.

They said: “All issues are promptly solved by the command.

“There are no problems here.

“We have the equipment, medicines, bandages, and modern equipment.”

But Professor Patrick Stewart of the University of Arkansas told said there was “nothing” to indicate that the Russian leader held any empathy for the wounded Russian servicemen in his body language.

He said the video acted as “poorly-produced visual propaganda”, that fails to “show Putin as an empathetic leader who cares about the sacrifice of the Russian people”.

Professor Stewart then suggested that the scene was staged, as key details were not quite consistent with what would be expected from an authentic recovery or treatment room.

He pointed to both the military servicemen’s posture and the furniture in the scene,

He said: “That battle injured soldiers are standing at attention (heels together, hands by side, shoulders back) to greet Putin, and that both beds appear to be fully made (not lain in) with only one chair in the room (that we can see) suggests a set-piece photo opportunity.”

As Putin enters the room at the start of the video, he strides up to shake the hands of the two soldiers waiting in the room.

Professor Stewart called this gesture a “photo opportunity for Putin”, with a similar staged feel to the final handshake caught on camera later on in the video.

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In this movement, Putin appears to “open his body” in a similar form to a “graduation ceremony”.

Professor Stewart concluded: “Overall, if Putin wanted to show empathy, there was nothing of note that indicated that was the case.”

Even some elements of the environment don’t quite fit with a viewer’s expectations, Professor Stewart described.

The scene appears to clash with the typical first impressions of a hospital environment, and recalls more a meeting with “a high-end hotel’s executive chef and staff”.

Professor Stewart emphasised a peculiar detail in the heights of everyone featured in the video, who appear to be “the same” or a “similar height to Putin”.

The “great majority of those captured in the shots”, he said, excluding the hospital administrator, fall around 5’ 7”.

A modest height, Professor Stewart said he would “expect greater variance” in such a group.

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