Putin’s 70th Birthday Memes Went Viral, Ukrainians Reaction

Putin was given a tractor by the leader of Belarus. The leader of Tajikistan gave him a stack of watermelons. And Ukrainians sent Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a birthday wish: that it would be his last.

Mr. Putin’s private life is kept secret, so he didn’t have a big party for his 70th birthday. Instead, he met with the leaders of Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in St. Petersburg, where he was born, for an “informal summit” of post-Soviet countries. He got calls from the leaders of Cuba, Turkey, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which is a pretty short list.

On his birthday, many people in Ukraine said bad things about him. The Nobel Peace Prize committee gave its award to human rights activists from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia as a message to Mr. Putin. There were a lot of memes criticizing the Russian president.

Some Ukrainian activists asked people to give money so that the Ukrainian military could get weapons. On social media, politicians and local leaders criticized the Russian leader.

On Putin’s birthday, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov sent a video to Russian officers and commanders telling them there would be no talks with Russian leaders and asking them to stop their offensive.

“You have been deceived and betrayed,” Mr. Reznikov said. “You were promised an easy ride. And sent to the trap. You pay in blood for someone’s fantasies and false goals.”

Ukrainian hackers marked the day by breaking into the websites of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is like NATO for post-Soviet states and posting the message, “We want to congratulate Putin on his last birthday and wish him a “comfortable” trip to The Hague.” Later the site was taken down.

Other activists and people who fight for human rights were quick to point out that Mr. Putin’s birthday is also the day that Anna Politkovskaya, a writer and journalist for Novaya Gazeta, died. She was one of his most vocal critics. On Oct. 7, 2006 she was killed in Moscow.

Putin's 70th Birthday
Putin’s 70th Birthday

“It’s not Putin’s birthday,” human rights lawyer and former head of Amnesty International Ukraine Oksana Pokalchuk wrote. “It’s another anniversary of killing of Anna Politkovskaya who exposed his war crimes during the Chechnya campaign. Her death was one of the first omens of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.”

At home, though, a lot of people liked the leader. Newspapers made a big deal about Mr. Putin’s 22 years as the country’s leader. Komsomolskaya Pravda drew comparisons between him and Peter the Great, Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev.

In Grozny, in the south of Russia 20,000 Chechen fighters gathered to honour him. This happened two days after Mr. Putin gave Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the region, the rank of colonel general.

Videos of young people praising Mr. Putin were shared online. One showed kindergarteners in central Russia dancing for the president, and the other was taken from above and showed students in St. Petersburg forming the words “Putin Is My President” with their bodies while waving Russian flags.

In a letter to Mr. Putin, Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, said, “God put you at the head of power so that you could do a service of special importance and great responsibility” for the country and its people. He also praised the growing closeness between the church and state.

Even though Ukrainians wished for his death, Mr. Putin seems to be in good physical health. His staged publicity photos of him bare-chested on a horse or in a river show him as a picture of health.

Western intelligence officials and the Kremlin both said that the rumors that he was sick in July were not true. “There are lots of rumors about President Putin’s health and as far as we can tell he’s entirely too healthy,” William J. Burns, director of the C.I.A. noted at the time.

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