On Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver assessed Russia's leader Vladimir Putin. He focused on allegations of Putin's corruption and the mysterious deaths of his political enemies, as well as the anti-LGBTQ policies and practices that flourished under his leadership — things that even the best and most ridiculous photo ops (of which Putin has many) cannot change or redeem. Putin's offspring, though, were received different treatment from the political comedian. Oliver played a video of Putin's daughter dancing at an acrobatic rock'n'roll competition and was honestly impressed.
Oliver, of course, had a larger point surrounding Katerina, Putin's daughter who uses the surname Tikhonova. A Reuters story from 2015 showed that Katerina and her husband, Kirill Shamalov, who happens to be the son of one of Putin's good friends, had assets upwards of $2 billion. In addition to dancing she is a reportedly influential figure at Moscow State University, where she is surrounded by people from Putin's top circle.
The point Oliver is pushing is that Putin's family has gotten rich — and, presumably, according to Oliver, through Putin' use of power and connection. And their own passions and hobbies may have gotten a boost from Putin — like Katerina's love of acrobatic rock'n'roll. In 2016, Reuters reported that a new $30 million sports complex was being built on the western outskirts of Moscow, solely for rock'n'roll acrobatics. This is being funded by the municipal government, and while there's no evidence of wrongdoing, it's curious such an obscure sport has such high-level support.
This is the video that Oliver took a clip from for his show. It's the 2013 top competition of the World Rock'n'Roll Confederation. Reuters reported that Katerina is a vice president for the group (and was a top competitor as recently as 2016). After Oliver played his clip, he literally said, "Cool." And I'm pretty sure he was breaking with his trademark dry humor and meant it.
There are more than a few examples of Katerina partaking in rock'n'roll acrobatics on the web. Consider the clip below:
In this appearance by Katerina and her dancing partner, pay attention to the fact that the dance is choreographed to music by Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora, "When The Rain Begins To Fall." Importantly the lyrics include:
And I will catch you if you fall; you'll never have to ask me why.
That lyric alludes to a key point Oliver made: Katerina's dancing partner has a rather dangerous job:
You know a lot of people think that the most dangerous job in the world is prison guard or fighter pilot, but I'd like to now put a strong word in for "guy whose job is to Throw Putin's daughter way up in the air and then hopefully catch her."
So given that he's yet to drop her, and that Russia has just invested $30 million in the sport, Putin's daughter may continue to impress at rock'n'roll acrobatics competitions for years to come. With $2 billion to her name, she can spend as much time as she'd like training.
Image: Namid Megar/YouTube.