In late 2013, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating was at its lowest ebb since he was first elevated to the presidency more than a decade earlier. The falling oil price, economic stagnation, and growing resentment about corruption had sunk the leader’s personal standing to 61 per cent, a remarkable low for a man who controls a sizeable quantum of the mainstream media.

By early 2014, however, this had been transformed. In one of the most vertiginous climbs in the history of such metrics, Putin’s personal rating soared to more than 80 per cent, a rise of almost 2,000 basis points. A man whose political reputation had been in trouble, and with growing whispers about his legitimacy, had been miraculously resurrected. It is not beyond the scope…