The Worst Week of Vladimir Putin’s Life

PutinshameJust. Wow!

What a truly appalling week Vladimir Putin just had.

He started out the week being booted out of the FIFA tournament in Brazil, which Russia will host in four years. His team only managed to score two goals in three matches despite being fortunately placed in one of the weakest groups in the tournament. Only three teams in the entire tournament scored less, and his hated rival the USA, hardly a world soccer power, advanced to the knockout round.  To add to Russia’s shame, its coach (highest paid in the world, and not Russian) tried to blame the debacle on a laser pointer.

Then Pooty watched as not just Ukraine but also Georgia and Moldova signed a formal treaty with the European Union, something Putin has been furiously struggling throughout his presidency to avoid.  Not one but three important pieces of post-Soviet space permanently severed their relations with Russia, vastly diminishing Russia’s prestige and influence in the region and vastly increasing the power of the West.  Putting the boot in, a newly swaggering Europe actually began issuing ultimatums to Putin.

And then to round things out, more spectacular disaster in space.  First Putin’s much-ballyhooed new rocket program, which was supposed to allow Russia to send missiles into space without need of Kazakhstan, using a base on Russian soil, humiliatingly failed to function.  And then one of Russia’s last early-warning military satellite simply stopped working while in orbit.

It’s impossible to imagine a worse week for Putin, and when you combine it with the increasingly bleak prospects of the Russian economy you have what well may be the worst week of Putin’s life.

Good News for Russia!

Every once in a while we come across some good news out of Russia, which we are only too pleased to report in order to break the monotony of relentless failure and decline that might otherwise lead to bleak depression. So it is with pleasure that we make note that both of the singles juniors champions at this year’s French Open tournament at Roland Garros in Paris were Russians. Darya Kasatkina took the girl’s title and the interestingly named Andrei Rublev took the boy’s title. The “other” Andrei Rublev was, you may know, the most famous painter of religious icons in Russian history.

Darya Kasatkina, French Open Girls Champion 2014

Darya Kasatkina, French Open Girls Champion 2014

Kasatkina’s victory was the more impressive, since she gutted out a tough three-set match against the number one tournament seed. Kasatkina was seeded #8, and lost the first set in a close tiebreaker but came back to win the next two.

Andrei Rublev, French Open Boy's Champ;ion 2014

Andrei Rublev, French Open Boy’s Champ;ion 2014

Rublev was expected to win his match against a lower-seeded opponent and decisively did so in straight sets.

The icing on this cake for Russia was that Maria Sharapova collected her second French Open title in the ladies’ main draw.  Although Sharapova’s victory was rather hollow since she did not have to face any of the four best players in the world ( Serena Williams, Li Na, Agnieska Radwanska or Victoria Azarenka) in order to take the title and treated fans to her usual festival of unforced errors compensated for by dumb luck (to say nothing of her intolerable shrieking), Sharapova did gut out  a tough three-set match in the finals against the world #4 (albeit a player who had never before appeared in a grand-slam final). It’ wasn’t pretty, though. She struck more double faults and many more unforced errors in the finals than in any prior round. She had 52 unforced errors and 12 double faults in the finals match alone, 211 total unforced errors and 43 total double faults in the tournament, and her diminutive finals opponent broke the giant Russian’s serve seven times.

So we say “formidable!” and “felicitations!” to Russian tennis fans for their multiple triumphs on the red clay! Hopefully they will take inspiration from these victories to consider the possibility that Russia may be capable of something better than Vladimir Putin.


Russia Crashes and Burns in Flushing Meadows

Luckily, Maria Kirilenko has a backup plan in case tennis does not work out.

Luckily, Maria Kirilenko has a backup plan in case tennis does not work out.

How tennis times have changed.

Remember the  bold talk among the Russophile jackasses of how Russian women were going to “dominate” the game?  As the U.S. Open got underway last week in Flushing Meadows, New York, Russia did not have one player seeded in the top ten and had only one player in the top 19.

By Friday evening at the end of the first week, it was clear that at most two of Russia’s six seeded players could get as far as the quarterfinals.  Russia’s second-highest seed, Nadia Petrova (#20), lost in the first round to an unseeded opponent.  Its third-highest seed Elena Vesnina (#22) lost in the second round to an unseeded opponent, and its lowest seed Anastasia Pavalyuchenkova (#32) lost to the #3 seed in the third round.

This left the country’s top seed, #14 Maria Kirilenko as well as the #24 seed Ekaterina Makarova, and the #27 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova as Russia’s last hopes of denting the upper echelons of the tournament.  But Kirilenko and Kuznetsova were drawn against each other in the fourth round, so only two of the three could have made the quarters.

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Just Say Nochi

With one year left now before the Winter Olympics convenes in Sochi, Russia, Kim Zigfeld’s latest column for RUSSIA! magazine exposes the horror of the IOC’s decision to lodge the games in the unworthy dictatorship run by proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin.  A horrifying report from Human Rights Watch exposes how unprepared, impoverished Russia has created an entire culture of slaves in Sochi to build the Olympics venues, which were totally lacking in unqualified, unprepared Sochi.

London 2012 Recap: As Usual, Russia loses even When it Wins

The fourth Olympics for Russia during the era of the Putin dictatorship has just concluded. Russia finished with one -quarter fewer gold medals and ten percent fewer total medals in London, UK than it had when the era began, in Sydney, Australia.  More importantly, it suffered spectacular loss after humiliating defeat across a wide range of marquee events.

Let’s start with the good news:  Russia nearly hit the gold-medal target that the national Olympic organizers had set for themselves, an improvement of two gold medals over what Russia achieved in Beijing China four years ago. It got to 24, shooting for 25, up from 23 four years ago.  On this, Russia should be congratulated. But it was still Russia’s worst overall performance at the summer games since 1952, and  the way Russia achieved its meager goal was certainly not pretty.  It was clear that Russia remains far, far behind the level of achievement it had when Putin took power, and that’s not what Putin promised, he promised significant improvement.  At most, after more than a decade in power, Putin has merely managed to stop the bleeding.  It’s clear that in sports as in economics, Russia might well have been far better off if Putin had never taken power.

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The Most Brutal Day in the History of Russian Sport?

Was Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the single most brutal day in the history of Russian sport? Who can say otherwise?

The day began with the USA not just defeating but crushing, in humiliating fashion, the Russian female gymnastics squad to win a team gold medal.  Gymnastics, of course, had long been the special province of the Russians, and a no-man’s land for the Americans. The world was reminded how very much times have changed, the USSR falling into the ash heap of history and the USA moving to spectacular glory.

The day ended when Michael Phelps of the USA anchored the gold-medal performance of the country’s 4×200 freestyle relay team.  In so doing, Phelps deposed Russian Larissa Latynina as the winningest athlete in the history of the Olympic games.

This left the USA with a whopping three times more total medals than Russia  (and five times more gold medals) one-third of the way into the competition.  And it all happened in London, one of Russia’s most bitter rivals.

How could it have been worse for Russia? We can’t think how.