Vladimir Putin’s stressed-out Kremlin staffers — along with prominent politicians, governors and members of Russia’s elite — have been hitting the bottle harder than ever since the start of the war in Ukraine, according to a new report.
The independent Russian-language news website Verstka reported, citing interviews with multiple sources within Russia’s political and business circles, that alcoholism has become increasingly commonplace among Putin’s cronies.
“Let’s put in this way: Previously, not everyone within the president’s administration would start the day with a glass of vodka,” one person familiar with the matter told the outlet. “Now, I know many more people who do, and for some, a glass has turned into a bottle.”
Even some of the most senior officials are not immune to alcohol addiction: Verstka reported that former president Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as deputy chairman of the Security Council, often writes his saber-rattling Telegram posts threatening the West with nuclear annihilation while deep in his cups.
It has also been reported that Medvedev has been producing his own moonshine on his estate outside the city of Plyos on the Volga River, bottles of which he would offer as gifts to members of the government and visiting foreign leaders.
In the past, no more than one bottle of alcohol was served per guest at official state banquets in Moscow, but the intake has since increased to one-and-a-half to two bottles each, according to a Kremlin insider.
And the scourge of alcohol abuse is not limited to the capital: High-ranking officials in other regions of Russia are said to be turning to booze as much as their Moscow comrades.
“Governors are skipping meetings, using illegal substances … they show up at events hammered,” one source told the website.
Another insider described a typical day in the life of one unidentified governor, who’s long been known to indulge in drink, but who lately “has been on a bender.”
“The day begins with [staffers] either searching for the governor, or trying to wake him up with phone calls,” the source recounted. “There is even a designated staffer who is tasked with looking for him.”
The sauced governor is then transported to work, where he drinks cognac to cure his hangover, before attending a couple of meetings, in which he does not take an active part, but instead “sits like a snowman,” according to the source.
After the meeting, the governor sits down to a boozy lunch, followed by an hours-long binge-drinking session at a local restaurant or a bathhouse, the source said.
While indulging in liquor, the governor reportedly likes to listen to Soviet songs, the musical stylings of Putin’s favorite band, Lyube, or “various fun prison tunes,” according to the source.
A second person close to the governor told the outlet that he always used to “get wasted, but not like this,” explaining the official’s deteriorating condition as a result of “nervousness related to the news [about war], pressure from the Kremlin and the local elites.”
Meanwhile, a vice governor in another region located in the remote Ural Mountains has reportedly confided in a Verstaka reporter that he’s been drinking heavily since the outbreak of the war “and cannot stop consuming alcohol at all.”
Danil Novikov, a member of FBK, the anti-corruption foundation started by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, reported that Russian government officials in recent years have been stocking up on foreign vodka, cognac, wine and champagne.
“Neither war nor even sanctions have stopped the conveyer belt of bulk alcohol purchases,” Novikov said, adding that some foreign companies that have publicly pledged to leave the Russian market over the war “in the end never left.”
Thirsty Kremlin officials were said to be especially fond of premium brands of cognac, like Remy Martin Louis XIII, and rare vintages of French Chateau Margaux wine, which they keep handy in their offices.
A trio of sources, including a member of the Russian parliament and a Kremlin administrator, confirmed to Verstka that beginning in March of this year — and especially since the within the past week — top officials have turned to hard liquor to cope with stress.
One source said that at dinners, massive quantities of cognac, vodka — including French Grey Goose and Polish Belvedere brands — are served and imbibed.
“And the scariest thing is, even women have started drinking without shame, including the most high-ranking ones,” the source said.
Unlike his sloshed underlings, Vladimir Putin hardly drinks at all, and a Kremlin insider said he “is squeamish about people who drink, alcoholics, and those who look the worse for wear in the morning.”
Putin, a longtime proponent of healthy living and sport, has been known to lash out at his overindulging ministers and military leaders during meetings.
The teetotaler president was said to be especially concerned about the drinking of his closest allies who’ve been using alcohol to relieve their war-induced stress, saying that “they should be able to easily deal with it” without the aid of alcohol.