Russian state TV has dedicated an entire show to documenting Vladimir Putin’s activities and praising him.
In the first episode of Rossiya-1’s new show, which aired on Sept. 4, 2018, the Russian president can be seen hiking around the Russian countryside, while his employees compliment almost everything about him, from his physical fitness to his “very empathetic” personality.
The show — named “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin.” — aired during prime time on Sept. 3, 2018, with the first episode lasting an hour long, The Guardian reported.
Clips from the episode showed wholesome activities such as Putin hiking with his ministers and picking berries in the Russian hills. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu can be seen complaining about his legs hurting several days after his hike, in what is most likely praise for Putin’s fitness levels.
The episode also showed footage of Putin’s recent hiking holiday in Siberia. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman and a guest on the show, said jokingly according to The Guardian: “This is wild nature, there are bears there. Bodyguards are armed in an appropriate manner, just in case. Although if a bear sees Putin — they aren’t idiots — they will behave themselves properly.”
Rossiya-1 also showed Putin meeting with schoolchildren and musicians. Peskov said: “Putin doesn’t only love children, he loves people in general.”
Protests in Russia
The series comes as Putin is going through one of the lowest points in his presidency. August 2018 the president broke a 13-year-old promise to increase Russia’s retirement age, a decision which meant Russian workers could miss out on a pension altogether due to lower life expectancies in Russia than in Western countries.
Thousands of people around the country protested against the reforms in summer 2018, and Putin’s popularity rating plummeted to a four-year low, at around 67%.
Around 10,000 Russians across the political spectrum demonstrated against the pension reform on the streets of Moscow, while other small protests took place in cities like St Petersburg and Vladivostok, the Independent reported.
A protest against the Russian government’s proposal to raise the retirement age in Omsk in June 2018.
(Al Jazeera English / YouTube)
“Cult of personality”
Putin’s critics said the show was fostering a cult of personality.
Ilya Barabanov, a BBC journalist in Moscow, tweeted in response to the show on Sept. 4, 2018: “We must somehow record that in September 2018 we returned to the cult of personality.”
US journalist Susan Glasser also told CNN this was a “classic Kremlin project to elevate Vladimir Putin and to humanize him at a time when he’s under increasing fire from his own public.”
“It’s not an accident that this is occurring,” she added. “It seems to me right at a time when he’s embroiled in a real political controversy.”
The Kremlin has denied being behind the program, despite the broadcaster being state-run. Peskov, who appeared the show, said according to Agence France-Presse: “This is the project of [state TV company] VGTRK, not the Kremlin’s.
“It is important for us that information about the president and his work schedule is shown correctly and without distortion.”
Peskov added that Putin does not plan to be in the show.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.