David McWilliams: Putin is no angel but he brought stability to Russia

Quite why westerners are perplexed by Vladimir Putin’s popularity is itself perplexing

An activist of Reporters without Borders wears a mask depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin during a protest in front of the Russian embassy to Germany in Berlin, ahead of the start of the 2018 Football World Cup. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty

An activist of Reporters without Borders wears a mask depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin during a protest in front of the Russian embassy to Germany in Berlin, ahead of the start of the 2018 Football World Cup. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty

In the summer of 1787, determined to show foreign ambassadors the might of Russian power in the newly-subjugated Ukraine, Catherine the Great organised a boat trip down the Dneiper past modern-day Kiev.

Her trusted field marshal, and her lover at the time, Prince Gregory Potemkin, organised a series of mobile villages to appear as soon as the imperial barge, stuffed with foreign dignitaries, came into view.

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