Many Brits, mainly those on the political right, are so fed up with our own spivocratic government that they go blind. The fetid slush on the other side looks like green grass to them.
This explains their attraction to Putin. The sentiments behind it are irrational, more akin to some perverse secular faith than to any conscious preference.
Hence rational arguments make no inroads on the believers’ creed. “Yes,” they acknowledge the obvious facts, “but at least he looks after his people.”
Yes, but apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play? goes a macabre American joke. But at least there was a play on. However, Putin looking after his people is a figment of ignorant imagination primed by a well-oiled propaganda machine.
Two examples of Putin’s medical care, if I may. One involves Iosif Kobzon, a popular crooner, known as ‘Russia’s Frank Sinatra’ since I was a child. Alas, singing isn’t all Kobzon is known for.
After ‘the collapse of the Soviet Union’, he entered two new fields of endeavour: politics and organised crime, which in Russia are unbreakably fused into one.
Kobzon is a senior Duma member, while his involvement in the other aspect of Russian life earned him a ban on entry to the United States long before the current sanctions. His unswerving support for the annexation of the Crimea and the brutal attack on the Ukraine added most other Western countries to the doors now shut to Kobzon.
That’s where medical care comes in. Like most rich Russian criminals, Kobzon gets his treatment abroad. Or rather he did, until the sanctions kicked in.
Since the singer cum criminal suffers from cancer, effective medical care is for him a matter of life or death. And he knows that life isn’t an option, given the state of Russia’s medicine.
However, his friend Putin has announced urbi et orbi that the West can take its sanctions and shove them (I’m trying to reproduce the style of Vlad’s chosen mode of self-expression). Russia is self-sufficient in everything, including her medicine that’s leading the West by a wide margin.
Apparently not only Kobzon but all other Russian Mafiosi, sorry, I mean businessmen, disagree – in deed, though of course not in word. None of them would be caught dead in a Russian hospital (pun intended), which is why Kobzon appealed to his friend Putin to put some heat on the recalcitrant Westerners, which Vlad so far hasn’t.
Alas, it takes an awful lot of money to be treated abroad. This option is off limits for those Russians who, no matter how successful in their own fields, don’t earn millions.
Such as Oleg Bogomolov, member of Russia’s Academy of Science (RAN), an equivalent of our Royal Society. Yet he has access to the RAN clinic, which is infinitely better than the hospitals available to hoi polloi.
According to a story running on a banned Russian website, a month ago the academician checked into the hospital for a thorough check-up, something he, no longer a young man, did annually. Feeling fine, Bogomolov spent his first few days in hospital writing scientific papers.
Then things began to deteriorate. Suffering from dizziness and nausea, Bogomolov was moved to intensive care.
A fortnight later hospital officials rang the scientist’s family and told them to pick up his personal belongings as he wouldn’t need them any longer. The family promptly collected two plastic bags containing the patient’s clothes, books, unfinished articles, leftover food.
Out of idle curiosity they wondered what the doctors were doing about the academician’s health – only to be told there was nothing anyone could do. Both kidneys had stopped working, and the only thing to do was to wait for the end.
The inquisitive relations inquired why nothing had been done about the patient’s kidneys for a fortnight. The Head Surgeon demanded that the petitioners turn off their mobile phones and put their pens away before answering that the academician himself had refused treatment – orally, which is why no evidence of the refusal exists.
The family couldn’t get their heads around their dear relation dying after receiving no medical help for a fortnight. They were clearly going to do something about it, which is why that very evening they were informed that a life-saving operation had been performed successfully.
Three days later the family were told to take the bed-ridden and half-conscious academician home. They refused, and managed to make the President of RAS write a letter pleading that his colleague be allowed to stay in hospital for a while longer.
This Bogomolov was grudgingly allowed to do, and he’s still in his semi-private room. The family are paying for his food and also for a private nurse, since this – highly privileged! – hospital has only one nurse per 30 patients. As I write, the doctors are still trying to kick Academician Bogomolov out.
So Kobzon knows something that Putin’s Western groupies don’t. Putin’s Russia, this ugly hybrid of Third Rome and Third Reich, looks after her people the Third World way.