Putin is cool, always immaculately dressed, with a correctly knotted tie. Well, almost always. Sometimes he likes to take a shirtless horse ride, the only head of state in the world to do so. Putin has that unfathomable enigmatic smile, almost like Mona Lisa, or like a cat. Cats, they say, have nine lives. Slow motion videos have shown that if a cat falls from a high-rise, it lands on all fours and survives. Putin has not fallen from a high-rise, not yet; there is always hope. But he has survived for more than two decades on a precipice that, if it was vertical instead of being flat like a map, it would have reached the outer space, far beyond the stratosphere, even far beyond Russia’s Mir space station which orbited at a mere 358 kilometres. East to West, the edifice that Putin rules is 9000 kilometres. Will the cool cat land on all fours when he falls from that structure?
It is time for more important issues relating to high moral standards of Putin than dwell on such speculative questions. For liberating Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia (Did we spell that correctly?), Putin has made a lot of sacrifices. We heard some say that Russia and Russians have made these sacrifices; such doubters are stuck with mere semantics. Putin is Russia and Russia is Putin and you can never tell which is which, at least till the time Putin falls from his 9000-kilometre ivory tower. Again we heard some say that Putin cannot live in an ivory tower because there are no elephants in Russia. Well, Russia had mammoths before India had elephants and a mammoth had more ivory than even an African elephant. Hence, there is no questioning the fact that Putin as Russia or Russia as Putin has made sacrifices to liberate these four regions as he had done eight years earlier to liberate Crimea.
Let us recount these sacrifices for every such Doubting Thomas. Leave aside the mundane issues like loss of lives of Russian soldiers, depletion of stocks of arms and ammunitions and loss of McDonald’s burgers. These are all replaceable, though the first one is a little difficult for three reasons; Russian population has been falling for the last three decades, not including the loss of population when USSR blew up. Also, patriotic Russians have been leaving Russia so rapidly, half a million in the first six months of 2022,  that the few airlines that are operating form its airports had to find new tailwind routes to reduce turnaround time, though the enemies of Putin say it is for avoiding airspaces forbidden by sanctions. Even then, many had to use trains, cars and cycles to leave as quickly as possible. Some even walked; Russian legs are strong as generations have trudged in deep Russian snow.
These migrants, who have left behind their motherland, mothers, wives and children are mostly highly educated professionals but they displayed patriotism in these difficult times by going abroad so that they could grab and send home the abundant dollars and euros in these foreign lands, these being rather scarce in Russia. For these patriots, avoiding conscription was a minor fringe benefit, not the decisive one. Their patriotism arose from  the complex algorithm also that with fewer young people to fight, the war may be shortened and this will contribute to environment and world peace. The third difficulty in replacing the dead Russian soldiers is that the Russians, particularly the patriotic mothers, wives and daughters have suddenly become peace-loving with a change of heart since Putin declared conscription.
But we digress. The greatest sacrifice Putin made to liberate these four regions was his goal of liberating Kiev. Putin knew that he can achieve both but that would have delayed the liberation of these regions and his patriotic empathy with the Russian-speaking people living in these regions is obviously  much higher than that for non-Russian speaking barbarians in Kiev. His generals had also agreed that Russian-speaking areas would be much easier to liberate. Only one who has been an emperor of a 9000-kilometre empire knows the pain of abandoning a cherished goal in favour of a greater good. Hitler never abandoned a goal and this proves that Putin has a higher spirit of sacrifice. That is why we say that Putin is cool; we could not have said that for Hitler, though the latter was also always immaculately dressed and never went shirtless.
Another major sacrifice made by Putin for liberating fellow Russian-speaking Ukrainians was loss of  his favourite Yacht Scheherazade that was seized by Italy. It is of the least importance that it cost $700 million; that is small change for any Russian oligarch and Putin is the grandmaster of Russian oligarchy. This despicable act of seizing the yacht would not have happened if Mussolini, the father of Fascism, affectionately called Il Duce, was still ruling Italy. What a fall for a great country, though the recent election of Meloni as Prime Minister gives hope because her party has sympathy with the likes of Il Duce and Putin. Coming back to the yacht, its naming after the fabled queen of  the “Arabian Nights” whom Sir Richard Burton had described as “pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred,” was no coincidence. The name always brought to Putin’s mind his girlfriend, Alina Maratovna Kabaeva, as fabulous and gifted as the fabled queen. The yacht was awash with memories of their sojourns together and he had sent it to Italy for just sprucing up, because like any empire, there are traitor rats in Russia too and his Linochka had complained last time. Remember the Nazi-themed 1986 movie Crawlspace, where a client was disturbed by rats.
Of course, one sacrifice brings tears to Putin’s shining blue eyes; the sanctioning of Alina herself. He would not have felt so bad if his wife had been sanctioned though he does not have one. But sanctioning someone’s girlfriend is hitting way below the belt where it hurts the most. He had hoped that the gallant French would move a resolution in the UN General Assembly condemning this inhuman act. But Macron is no François Mitterrand whose girlfriend Anne Pingeot, actually an old woman by then, attended his funeral, standing shoulder to shoulder with Danielle, the de jure Mrs Mitterrand. These are really decadent times to live in, difficult and painful for a gallant knight in shining armor like Putin.
There are people inside and outside Russia who are demanding Putin’s skin for losing the liberated territories during the last month. Little they realise the wider goal of Putin; as long as the war goes on, both Putin and Russia will continue to have opportunities of making sacrifices. Few know the secret that we are now letting out; Putin is a fan of the English novelist dame Ivy Compton Burnett. She is remembered more for her famous line, “I never know why self-sacrifice is noble. Why is it better to sacrifice oneself than someone else?”

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