One Ring to rule them all/One Ring to find them/One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Almost as soon as Vladimir Putin gave out gold rings to the eight other leaders of the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States — a group of Moscow-influenced former Soviet republics — the Lord of the Rings jokes started. After all, in the lore of the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle Earth’s reigning bad guy Sauron gave nine Rings of Power to leaders of men. They, in turn became “mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old.” But one by one, the leaders came to be ruled by the One Ring, which Sauron himself held, and were turned into wraiths subject to his bidding.

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Putin reportedly kept a ninth ring himself, making a match with Tolkien’s fictional nine rings. (One assumes, like Sauron, he would secretly keep the One Ring for himself.)

The only leader who looks to be wearing his gift in a group photo from the event is Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is reported to have put the band on his finger immediately.

In a statement from the conclave, Putin tied to strike a tone of fidelity among CIS countries as the Russian president’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine continues.

Among those making LOTR comparisons was Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs who posted photos of Gollum, Putin’s rings themselves — which allegedly have the words “Happy New Year 2023” and “Russia” written on them — as well as Lukashenko wearing his. Gerashchenko wrote “Expectation: Putin-Sauron” followed by “Reality: Putin-Gollum.”

Ukrainian Parlamentarian Oleksiy Goncharenko also posted photos of the rings and wrote, “Putin got tired of being the Hitler of the 21st century and decided to play Lord of the Rings and become a ‘mighty Sauron.’ ” He followed up with a narrated clip from Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power that explains the rings and their relationship to the “One Ring.” You can see both posts below.

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