A time to forgive?

IT IS THAT time of the year when good cheer and the spirit of forgiveness is in the air and makes people want to say hello and warm up to folks who they would otherwise not give the time of the day.

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Published: Fri 27 Dec 2013, 8:40 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:19 AM

A change of heart? What behind Vladimir Putin forgiving his enemies?

As large parts of the world spend their hard-earned money buying gifts for family and friends, and take on the daunting task of spending days of togetherness, Russian President Vladimir Putin proved last week that he is not immune to the charms of Christmas and merriment too. How else can you explain the fact that the man has pardoned long- time nemesis, oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, after a decade in jail?

Or that he found it in his heart to forgive and pardon members of the all-girl punk band who got his goat with their unconventional protest numbers and rather unflattering depiction of his regime? He flung them in jail unceremoniously and left them to languish, hoping for their repentance but appears to have given up that hope and pardoned them last week too.

Is the former KGB chief and hardened spy finding it hard to keep up his tough as nails image? Do the famed, rippling six packs hide behind them a heart of gold? Is he in danger of becoming the Spy Who Loved Me? We don’t think so and we are sure, nor do anybody else who know how the man’s mind works.

With just over a month to go for the Winter Olympics to be held in his country — the event at Sochi is his dream project just now — Putin is bent on pulling out all stops to make it a super success. And if that means he has to eat a bit of a humble pie or let a couple of his sworn enemies off the hook so that the world sees him as a gentleman, that seems to be a small price to pay for the brownie points that he will get.

Against a growing and never-ending list of human rights violation accusations hurled at him from various quarters, the President seems to think that pardoning the oil tycoon on humanitarian grounds, because his mother is ailing, will paint a picture of a tender-hearted President. Ditto for the rebellious Pussy Riot who, he says, disgraced themselves with their protest in front of one of the country’s iconic cathedrals.

Unfortunately for the man, nobody seems to be buying the story, not even the folks who he has probably surprised with his unexpected generosity. Maria Alyokhina, one of the freed members of Pussy Riots, was categorically dismissive of Putin’s gesture, saying it was simply a ‘PR stunt’ ahead of the Winter Olympics. She would have declined his generosity and continued in jail, if that had been an option, she fumed.

Putin’s generosity, meanwhile, did not end there. He has granted amnesty to the crew of a Greenpeace ship who he had jailed for protesting against a Russian oil rig in the Artic. And, hold your breath, he has given beleaguered US President Barack Obama some welcome support by saying that his infamous National Security Agency spying could possibly have great merit in the fight against terrorism.

We are not sure Barack Obama wants any of this support but Putin has landed this Christmas Turkey at the White House door and we would love to see what the Big O has to say about it.

Having done his share of good deeds for the year, we are sure the Russian President will put up his feet and have a warm and cheerful festive season ahead of him.

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