After pardoning two members of the punk/performance group Pussy Riot as well as springing a former political opponent, Michail Khodorovsky, who'd been languishing in prison for 10 years, Putin announced today that he is releasing 30 members of Greenpeace held in Russia following their protest against Arctic oil drilling three months ago. Charged with my fave crime "hooliganism," the international group of environmental activists, who are from 18 different countries, were facing a possible 7 years each. The Czar of all the Russias apparently has no soft spot for hooligans, but even they can bask in his mercy while he's wearing his white hat.
So what accoutnts foe this sudden gusher of mercy from the guy Americans have been trying to make into the modern incarnation of Ivan the Terrible? I hate to be cynical about someone doing the right thing(s), but with the Winter Olympics due to begin in Sochi in a few weeks, even Czars are aware nowadays of that peculiarly modern concept we call "PR" or public relations.
And going from the hardass and authoritarian father of his people to the merciful dad isn't tough at all. It's really just a matter of changing hats.