President Vladimir Putin turned 70 this Friday amid sycophantic congratulations from his minions and a plea from Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for all to pray for the health of Russia’s longest-serving supreme leader since Josef Stalin.
Putin faces his government’s biggest challenge after the invasion of Ukraine triggered the more serious confrontation with the West since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
His army is recovering from a series of defeats in the last month.
Officials hailed Putin as the savior of modern Russia, while the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia implored the country to join in a two-day prayer of special prayers for God to grant Putin “health and longevity”.
“We pray to you, our Lord God, by the head of the Russian state, Vladimir Vladimirovichand we ask you to give him your rich mercy and generosity, grant him health and longevity, and free him from all the resistances of the visible and invisible: enemies, confirm him in wisdom and spiritual strength, for all, Lord, listen to him and have mercy Kirill said.
Putin, who promised to end the chaos that gripped Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, faces the most serious military crisis any Kremlin chief has ever faced for at least a generation since the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan war.
Opponents, such as jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, say Putin has led Russia down a dead end road to ruinbuilding a fragile system of incompetent sycophants that will eventually collapse and bequeath chaos.
Supporters say Putin saved Russia of destruction by an arrogant and aggressive West.
“Today, our national leader, one of the most influential and prominent personalities of our time, the number one patriot in the world, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, turns 70!” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said.
“Putin changed Russia’s global position and forced the world to take into account the position of our great state.”
But the war in Ukraine has forced Putin to burn large amounts of political, diplomatic and military capital.
More than seven months after the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has suffered huge losses in men and equipment and has been defeated on several fronts in the past month as the army of Putin has gone from one humiliation to another.
Putin has resorted to proclaiming the annexation of territories only partly under Russian control – and whose borders, according to the Kremlin, have not yet been defined – and threatens to defend them with nuclear weapons.
A partial mobilization declared by the president on September 21 has developed in such a chaotic manner that even Putin has been forced to admit mistakes and order changes. Hundreds of thousands of men have fled abroad to avoid being summoned.
Even the Kremlin’s normally loyal allies have denounced the failings of the military, though so far they have stopped short of criticizing the president himself.
Putin faces a resurgent, united and expanding NATOdespite his insistence that the “special operation” in Ukraine was aimed at reinforcing Russian “red lines” and preventing the alliance from approaching Russia’s borders.
Signs of concern have emerged in Chinese and Indian, on which Russia increasingly relies as geopolitical and economic partners in the wake of successive waves of Western sanctions.
Reflecting on Putin’s birthday, former Kremlin speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov said: “On an anniversary, it is customary to summarize the results, but the results are so deplorable that it would be better not to draw too much attention to the anniversary.”