Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to think he is invincible. In his annual state of the nation address to both houses of parliament, the 68-year-old compared those who dare to stand up to the Kremlin to the jackal, Tabaqui, from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book."
"There are all kinds of little Tabaqui's hanging around Shere Khan, howling to appease their sovereign," Putin said, referring to a man-eating tiger, the book's main antagonist — a not-so-subtle hint at the relationship between the US and its allies, as seen from the point-of-view of the Kremlin. Although he did not say as much, it transpires that the Russian strongman sees himself as Mowgli, the book's main hero, a man who vanquished the tiger.
The audience, consisting of the regime's pliant apparatchiks, exploded with servile laughter and applause at the comparison. Putin also promised a ‘devastating' response to those who trample on Russian interests. This was probably the most memorable moment from a speech which was otherwise dedicated to plans of a major social spending spree in a year of elections to the State Duma.
In the run up to Wednesday's event at the Manezh, an exhibition hall in front of the Kremlin, speculation was rife that Putin would escalate the conflict with Ukraine and propose to officially recognize the separatist ‘republic' in the Kremlin-controlled area of eastern Ukraine.
Pointing to the Russian armed forces massive buildup on the Ukrainian border, some analysts suggested a full-scale invasion could be on the cards to occupy the rest of eastern and southern Ukraine and secure an uninterrupted fresh water supply to the water-starved Crimea. However, Putin failed to mention Ukraine.
In his address, he emphatically agreed with the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko's assertion of a plot by the West to kill him and his family. Putin's security services allegedly helped uncover it. True or not, the assertion chimes with Putin's conviction that the West is out to get him too, eventually.
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