Mystery as Putin cancels last-minute tank factory trip

Putin exits plane after arriving in Belarus

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has cancelled a visit to a factory tasked with building tanks for the war in Ukraine at the last minute. The industrial city of Nizhny Tagil in western Russia had been cleared of snow ahead of Putin’s visit, and “unprecedented security measures” had been put in place in anticipation. But news of the Russian leader’s cancellation arrived around midday and the fleet of presidential armoured cars was stood down. 

Local sources said the town had been “preparing for days” the arrival of Putin, with civilians banned from driving on the roads and even the opening of the Christmas tree in the nearby Dzerzhinsky district being cancelled. 

Putin was due to inspect the boosted tank and flamethrower production of a factory, which is now using prison labour to meet the increased demand, within the city of Nizhny Tagil. 

Urals media outlet E1 said three sources had confirmed his sudden last-minute cancellation, though no reason for his withdrawal was given. 

Putin was due to fly to the regional capital Yekaterinburg before visiting the factory in Nizhny Tagil. 

E1 reported “unprecedented security measures” in the city ahead of the expected Putin visit.

It said: “Precinct officers will check everyone who has a weapon registered to them, this will be the biggest focus. Special attention is paid to former snipers and sappers, those who dealt with explosives, as well as natives of Ukraine. 

“They will look at whether they have weapons and in what condition, where they work and with whom they live, and at their psychological state.

“They will also come with an inspection to residents whose windows overlook the intended route of the motorcade.” 

Airport security in Moscow was heightened regarding flights to the Urals, the region within which the factory is located, and Putin’s fleet of presidential Aurus cars was seen being readied to be moved out of Yekaterinburg, said observers. 

It was claimed the vehicles had been brought to the city for the expected Nizhny Tagil visit. 

The abrupt cancellation is the latest in a string of withdrawals made by Putin but not explained. 

The pattern is fuelling speculation over Putin’s retreat from the spotlight as Russian soldiers struggle to manage the ongoing counter offensives of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. 

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Local convicted criminals were put to work in the factory in Nizhny Tagil in November after the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, reportedly “shouted at the plant’s executive director Vladimir Roshchupkin”. 

Medvedev was allegedly furious at Roshchupkin over the poor production of tanks as Russian forces struggled with dwindling equipment supplies in Ukraine. 

A month later local convicted criminals were put to work in the plant. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had already been to plant in August in a forlorn bid to raise production.

It follows claims by senior Ukrainian figures that Putin fears he will be killed if he loses the war in Ukraine, and so is “fighting for his life”.

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