Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, publicly criticised his most faithful oligarch on Thursday in an attempt to deflect growing social discontent on to the country’s unpopular super-rich. Mr Putin, who is a master at dispensing ritual humiliation, likened Oleg Deripaska to a cockroach and forced him to accompany him on a tour of Pikalevo, a factory town that has witnessed the most serious social unrest Russia has seen since the start of the global economic crisis. Last week Pikalevo’s residents vented their anger over job losses and unpaid wages at one of the oligarch’s local factories by blocking a major road and causing a 250-mile traffic jam. The unprecedented protest reportedly worried the Kremlin, which has long been afraid that Russia’s imploding economy could cause serious political unrest. Anxious to ensure that the Pikalevo problem remained an isolated one, Mr Putin sought to cast himself as the town’s saviour – and Mr Deripaska as its villain.
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