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Putin’s dwindling circle of friends and cronies

Welcome to Declassified, a weekly humor column.

Vladimir Putin’s bloody and senseless war against Ukraine is leaving him increasingly isolated. Soon he’ll have no friends left to come and sit at that ridiculously oversized table … except for Alexander Lukashenko (very much the supermarket own-brand version of Putin) and Steven Seagal.

Hair dye enthusiast and action movie star Seagal — I hesitate to use the word actor as he is regularly out-acted by potted plants — became a Russian citizen in 2017 and has, to the delight of absolutely no one, weighed in on the current conflict.

The star of films such as “Under siege” and “Fire down below” (the latter of which I believe is about chlamydia) told Fox News Digital: “I look at both as one family and really believe it is an outside entity spending huge sums of money on propaganda to provoke the two countries to be at odds with each other.”

While everyone else is running away from Russia, the oligarch Roman Abramovich has flown back there and is selling assets faster than you can say “potential financial sanctions.” That includes his property portfolio and also Chelsea Football Club, for which he wants a reported £3 billion. I’m sure people will be queuing up to hand over unimaginable sums of money to a man who’s friend is waging a doubtless crippling expensive war. Actually, this is football club ownership, so they will almost certainly be lining up to do just that.

Another supporter of Putin, far-right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, has been having a bad week. The newspaper Le Canard enchaîné reported that he left swanky department store Le Bon Marché without paying for his groceries. It seems Zemmour scanned the items but didn’t pay the €38.80 bill (that’s now a whopping 4,780 rubles, following the tanking of the Russian currency), store employees recognized him from the CCTV footage and contacted his team, before a security guard returned to pay up.

Zemmour described it as a “simple mistake” and blamed it on foreigners and lefties (probably). He also said he gave his security officer €40 to settle the bill and generously allowed him to keep the change, all €1.20 of it. Let’s hope Putin doesn’t hear about this scandalous waste of money that could have been headed in his direction!


“Look, I know we’re here to talk about the war in Ukraine but if anyone does fancy a quick party, just give the secret signal.”

Can you do better? Email [email protected] or on Twitter @pdallisonesque

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Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best from our postbag — there’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze.

“French far-right split shocker!” by Miriam Jones.

Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s Slot News Editor.

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