Putin visits injured soldiers for the first time as he puts on charm

Putin visits injured soldiers for the first time as he puts on charm offensive in Russia amid economic fallout from his war in Ukraine

  • The Russian dictator visited soldiers wounded in Ukraine for the first time
  • He made small talk with the injured soldiers in a Moscow hospital today
  • It comes as Putin launches a PR offensive as sanctions bite for ordinary Russians

Vladimir Putin has visited injured Russian soldiers for the first time – as he launched a new PR offensive to win support for the failing Ukraine war effort.

In a Moscow hospital, the Russian dictator visited two soldiers who had been in Ukraine. 

Clad in a white coat, Putin made small talk with the two soldiers briefly while surrounded by their doctors.

After asking them where they were from, the dictator told both men that ‘everything will be alright’ as they admitted their families had not seen them. 

Putin made small talk with the two soldiers briefly about their families across Russia

The PR move comes as the Russian president ordered 10 per cent rises in pensions and the minimum wage on Wednesday to cushion Russians from inflation

The PR move comes as the Russian president ordered 10 per cent rises in pensions and the minimum wage on Wednesday to cushion Russians from inflation.

Despite doing this, he still denied the country’s economic problems were all linked to the war in Ukraine.

With annual inflation near 18 per cent last month, the Kremlin leader acknowledged that 2022 would be a ‘difficult’ year for the Russian economy.

‘When I say ‘difficult’, it doesn’t mean all these difficulties are connected to the special military operation,’ Putin told a televised meeting of the State Council in Moscow.

‘Because in countries that aren’t conducting any operations – say, overseas, in North America, in Europe – inflation is comparable and, if you look at the structure of their economies, even more than ours.’

After asking them where they were from, the dictator told both men that ‘everything will be alright’ as they admitted their families had not seen them

His comments ignored the fact that rising inflation in Western economies is in part a direct consequence of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has driven up prices for energy and food around the world.

The pension increase comes into effect from June 1, while the minimum wage hike kicks in on July 1. Analysts said the steps would not prevent a sharp fall in real incomes.

Putin – whose approval rating has jumped more than 10 points since the start of the Ukraine campaign to 82 per cent – according to the independent Levada Centre’s April poll – pledged in March to reduce poverty and inequality this year despite crippling Western sanctions and high inflation.

With annual inflation near 18 per cent last month, the Kremlin leader acknowledged that 2022 would be a ‘difficult’ year for the Russian economy 

The Russian economy has been rocked by an unprecedented barrage of Western sanctions imposed over his decision to send troops into Ukraine on Febbuary 24, with consumer prices soaring and foreign companies quitting Russia en masse as trade becomes near-impossible.

The Research and Expert Review Institute of the bank VEB said the increase in social payments would slow but not prevent a decline in Russians’ real incomes, wages and pensions – after inflation is taken into account.

Even with a 10% increase in the minimum wage and retirement pensions, VEB expects Russians’ real disposable incomes to fall by 7.5% and real wages to drop nearly 6% this year. VEB also expects poverty to rise to 12.6% this year from 11% in 2021.

Russia’s minimum wage currently stands at 13,890 roubles ($250) a month, while the average retirement pension amounts to 18,521 roubles per month.

The increase in wages and pensions may add to the inflation pressures that the central bank tried to cap with an emergency rate hike to 20% in late February, as the rouble’s foreign exchange value plunged. It has cut its rate twice since then as the rouble has recovered.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the measures would cost the federal budget around 600 billion roubles ($10.5 billion) this year and about 1 trillion roubles in 2023.

On Thursday, the central bank is set to hold an out-of-schedule policy meeting, where analysts expect it to slash the benchmark interest rate from 14% back towards the 9.5% where it stood before the intervention in Ukraine.

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