LONDON. – President Vladimir Putin turned 70 yesterday amid congratulations from subordinates and a plea from Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for all to pray for the health of the longest-serving paramount leader of Russia since Josef Stalin.
Mr Putin was born in Leningrad (since September 1991 St. Petersburg) on October 7, 1952.
Officials hailed Putin as the saviour of modern Russia while the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia implored the country to say two days of special prayers so that God grants Putin “health and longevity”.
“We pray to you, our Lord God, for the head of the Russian State, Vladimir Vladimirovich, and ask you to give him your rich mercy and generosity, grant him health and longevity, and deliver him from all the resistances of visible and invisible enemies, confirm him in wisdom and spiritual strength, for all, Lord hear and have mercy,” Kirill said.
The youth of Moscow and St Petersburg decided to take to the streets and throw a spontaneous flash mob for Mr Putin
He usually celebrates his birthday by travelling abroad, hiking and playing golf with other world leaders.
This year, he will probably spent his day working, as he had a meeting at St Petersburg with other heads of states..
Supporters say Mr Putin saved Russia from destruction by an arrogant and aggressive West.
“Today, our national leader, one of the most influential and outstanding personalities of our time, the number one patriot in the world, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, turns 70 years old!” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said.
“Putin has changed the global position of Russia and forced the world to reckon with the position of our great state.”
Mr Putin has accessioned territories only partly under Russian control – and whose borders the Kremlin has said are yet to be defined – and threatening to defend them with nuclear weapons.
Mr Putin finds himself confronted with an expanding NATO, despite his insistence that the “special operation” in Ukraine was aimed at enforcing Russian “red lines” and preventing the alliance from moving closer to Russia’s borders.
Reflecting on Mr Putin’s birthday, former Kremlin speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov said: “On an anniversary, it’s customary to sum up results, but the results are so deplorable that it would be better not to draw too much attention to the anniversary.”
Mr Putin has dominated Russia for nearly 23 years since being handpicked by President Boris Yeltsin as his preferred successor in a surprise announcement on New Year’s Eve 1999.
Changes adopted to the constitution in 2020 paved the way for him to rule potentially until 2036, and there is no obvious front-runner to succeed him.
He maintains a full schedule of meetings and public events and invariably appears in control of his brief, holding forth at length in video conferences on topics ranging from energy to education. The Kremlin has denied recurrent speculation about alleged health problems.
As he has grown older, Mr Putin has appeared increasingly preoccupied with his legacy. In June he compared his actions in Ukraine to the campaigns of Tsar Peter the Great, suggesting both of them were engaged in historic quests to win back Russian lands.
Mr Putin has become increasingly fond of quoting Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin, who argued that Russia had an exceptional mystical and holy path to follow that would ultimately restore order to an imperfect world.
In a televised encounter with teachers this week, Putin showed a keen interest in another episode from history – an 18th century peasant revolt against Empress Catherine the Great – that he blamed on “the weakness of central authority in the country”.
From the man who has dominated Russia for more than two decades, it sounded as though a lesson had been taken to heart: faced with the possibility of rebellion, the ruler needs to be both strong and vigilant.
He holds a black belt in karate. In November 2014, the international organization Kyokushin-kan karate-do awarded to Putin eighth Kyokushin-kan dan.– Reuters