Putin is being pragmatic. He doesn’t want to have to deal with jihad attacks from people who are outraged over insults to Muhammad. And of course, he was never a fan of the freedom of speech anyway. Most of the world today agrees with him, except for those who still understand the importance of the freedom of expression for any free society.
“Putin: Insulting Prophet Muhammad is not freedom of expression,” TRT World, December 24, 2021:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said insulting Prophet Muhammad does not count as freedom of expression.
Insults to the prophet are a “violation of religious freedom and the violation of the sacred feelings of people who profess Islam,”, [sic] Putin said…
Putin said these acts give rise to extremist reprisals, citing as an example the attack on the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris after its publication of cartoons of the prophet.
While praising artistic freedom in general, Putin said it has its limits and it should not infringe on other freedoms.
Russia has evolved as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, so Russians, he said, are used to respecting each other’s traditions.
In some other countries, this respect comes in short supply, Putin said.