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“For many here in Russia, Putin is the antithesis of a monster”
Today is Russia Day, which marks the official beginning of the Russian Federation — or, to give it its formal definition, the declaration of state sovereignty by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR).
Days - World - Cup - Kick-off - World
With just two days to go until the World Cup kick-off, it feels like half the world is with me here in St Petersburg, ready to play. Half a million visitors will be welcomed and the Kremlin has gone all out to showcase Vladimir Putin’s new Russia as a vibrant, safe and strong nation.
Thanks to a two-year renovation program across the major cities, St Petersburg is immaculate. The buildings are pristine, the facades freshly painted. It looks truly splendid – and a stark contrast to its beleaguered European counterparts in Italy, Greece and Spain.
People - Cent - Identify - Matter - Cent
When you talk to the people here, they say they feel Russian, really Russian; 85 per cent identify as Russian first, no matter where they are from. Almost 90 per cent worship in the Orthodox cathedrals or Christian churches. They share a clear understanding of who they are and what they believe in. And you can feel it.
As an outsider from the UK, a place that’s shedding its identity faster than a convict on the run, I envy these people and their unshakeable commitment to their country.
Russians - Putin - Strength - Leader - Strength
If you ask Russians about Putin, most say they love his strength as a leader and admire his strength on the international stage.
They see Putin’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, his military intervention in Syria and the country’s military spending (more than 4 per cent of GDP) as examples of Putin at his best, showing the world he means business.
Message - UK - Power - Putin
And their message to the UK is clear: you have no power over Putin.
Following the poisoning on UK...
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