When Vladimir Putin last appeared before the Russian Federal Assembly, Mariupol was still standing, Kharkiv was not yet in ruins and Kherson was not yet a field of ashes. Now, a year and a half later, the world has changed. If you ask Putin, he is the last one to answer for this.
The Kremlin chief's speech to the Federal Assembly on Tuesday lasted almost two hours. For two hours he indulged in old-fashioned slogans. "The West has unleashed the war. We are using our strength to stop it." "We defend the people. But the goal of the West is limitless power." "It wasn't us! It was all them." They - with Putin, there are always the heads of the ominous "collective West".
Like an oversized old school class, the so-called Russian elite squatted in front of their head teacher Putin while he rattled off his platitudes. She applauded when commanded, jumped up from her chairs when commanded, squatted down again when commanded.
Otherwise, the Russian elite followed the monotonous singsong on stage with frozen faces. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was visibly struggling with sleep. The boss of the most important state broadcaster Pervyj Kanal, Konstantin Ernst, almost nodded off. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov chose to stare at the floor rather than keep an eye on his boss's crooked tie.
But when Putin reached the height of cynicism an hour later, the Russian elite took notice. Because suddenly their commander-in-chief was talking about those who crouched in front of his stage. "Instead of investing in the Russian economy, in the purchase of new technologies and in the creation of new jobs in Russia, the money has flowed into properties abroad, yachts and luxury real estate," Putin allowed himself a small "philosophical digression," as he says called.
"But recent events have clearly shown that the image of the West as a safe haven and haven for capital is a phantom. Those who didn't understand this in time, those who saw Russia merely as their source of income, but their life abroad planned, lost a lot. There they were simply robbed," Putin said with a shrug.
With a raised finger, he added: "No one in the population feels sorry for those who have lost their capital in foreign banks." After these words, appointed applause rang out in the hall. But nervous glances flitted through the audience, crooked grins distorted many a face.
Dmitry Medvedev sat in the first row in front of Putin. Twelve years ago, his palaces cost the former hope of Russian liberals popularity among the population. Next to the sawed-off interim president, Vladimir Gundyaev was enthroned in his golden robes. The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is known for his luxury watch collection and fondness for German limousines.
It's the likes of Medvedev and Gunyaev who give a face to yachts and estates in Russia today. The most important message of the day went to her. Putin frankly told his elites: You have lost everything. My future is yours!
"Everyone has a choice. Some will want to spend their twilight years in a confiscated mansion with frozen accounts. Others will try to find a warm spot in a seemingly enticing Western capital or resort town. (...) But it's on to understand at the time: For the West, these people were second-class strangers - and they will remain so," Putin summed up the most important point. Nothing will help them, neither connections nor money nor bought noble titles.
But there is an alternative. "To stay together with one's fatherland. To work for one's compatriots. Not only to create new businesses, but also to change life around them. There are many such entrepreneurs, such true fighters in our business world. They are the future of native business. Everyone must understand it: The sources of wealth and also the future can only lie here, in the homeland, in Russia!"
A sentence that reveals the meaning and purpose of the entire event: to put the Russian elites on the curb. So that nobody leaves the team.