Over the years, voices have been raised to bring Vladimir Putin to justice for a variety of alleged crimes, especially among Russophobic groups in the West. Any chance to do so has seemed distant and improbable. Only last year, an opportunity still emerged, but perhaps not in the guise preferred by most anti-Putinists.
In September 2008, a 30-year-old Russian male was arrested for shoplifiting in the Italian resort Riccione, Novye Izvestiya reports. The peculiar thing was that he carried a passport in the name of no other than Vladimir Putin. Apparently, Italian police suspected the culprit for a shoplifting spree in the exclusive shops of the tourist paradise.
That Vladimir Putin, known for his youthful image, would pass for a 30-year-old is, of course, beyond reason, and doing so venture to Italy for shoplifting, is even more ludicruous. It did not take long for Italian police to establish that the thief instead was merely a namesake of the Russian leader.
However, it would not be news if someone did not see it fit to print, and consequently the story was picked up by e.g. UPI, and other international news' outlets carried the story as a funny oddity. Obviously, a younger version Vladimir Putin caught for thievery was worth hitting the headlines. The question is if a namesake George Bush, Gordon Brown or Angela Merkel being caguht shoplifting would result in news items across the globe. If not, what does it have to tell us about the peculiarities of and views within Western media Russia coverage?