More than two decades after coming to power, President Putin’s grip on the Russian people has begun to tighten.
The war in Ukraine has opened a new window of truth, and for the first time many Russians no longer believe that they can trust what their leader tells them. Combined with tough economic sanctions, redistributed war funds, and national campaigns, the costs of this insidious conquest are becoming increasingly difficult.
Even true Russians have many questions about Putin now. And the Kremlin is running out of ways to respond to the pressure. In the past, a written image or a half-naked photo would be enough to bring back the national media. In some cases, they gave independent reporters a chance to ask Putin a sensitive question or two — only to be quickly and forcefully dismissed.
But recent attempts to make Putin look like a strong and decisive leader have failed miserably — even inside Russia — after nine months of brutal conflict in Ukraine, sentiment has faded. of the Kremlin. They canceled Putin’s big rally for the first time in years.
“Putin might have been in power for a long time, if he hadn’t started this war but now his days are definitely numbered“
— Yulia Galiamina
“Russia, like other nations, wants stability and does not shame our Moscow leadership. Before the war Putin guaranteed a stable life but now he says it will be good to Russia in just ten years,” Vera Aleksandrovna, 57, a lawyer from Saint Petersburg, told The Daily Beast. “I liked Putin before the war, my son is an IT technician, we like the IT opportunities in Russia; but now all the brains and talents are fleeing the country, and I have lost my son, and I can’t wait ten years for a good life.”
Putin’s rock-solid system is collapsing.
Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, a Kremlin insider, told The Daily Beast that we are already entering the endgame for Putin. “It’s clear that Russia has lost the war and the regime will collapse but the question is how many more people will die before that,” he told The Daily Beast.
“Putin never played chess, a game of rules, he played a game of poker,” Kasparov said. “Putin is so bad, he’s gone crazy after 22 years in power; but in his bones he must understand that he cannot go and rule Russia, when thousands of enemy soldiers return home the tools, thinking they were stolen.”
Tatiana Yashina, 62, the mother of jailed leader Ilya Yashin, said last week that Putin’s regime had changed.
“Putin is falling apart,” he told The Daily Beast. “He’s clearly lying in front of the cameras—there’s no confidence in his voice.”
Yashina also has good reason to focus on Putin’s emotional state because his son was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison last Friday, but the way the president handled the his infamous arrest—for his candid account of the war in Ukraine—has broken through to the general population.
Veteran journalist Andrei Kolesnikov accused Putin of Yashin’s “disgusting” speech in a video that surfaced. Yashina said: “Shaky Putin … lied that he didn’t know my son, then he lied that he didn’t know anything about the refugee.”
Putin’s changes are not convincing his audience.
Hundreds of independent Russian and foreign journalists have left Russia in the past nine months but some who remain, including BBC journalists, continue to spread the word for a general who is missing thousands of his soldiers, and some of the key regions in Ukraine. Last week the BBC’s Russian service and local publication, Mediazona, confirmed the names of 10,002 Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine. Russia’s actual death toll “is expected to exceed 20,000 and the total number of deaths could reach 90,000,” the BBC said.
Independent and Kremlin-controlled polls show that Putin has lost support for his campaign, with less than 30 percent of the country wanting it to continue. “Putin could have ruled longer, if he had not started this war but now his days are really numbered, he is breaking down, he knows it,” said Yulia Galiamina, an opposition politician in Moscow, in told The Daily Beast. Galiamina has suffered from police brutality and has been arrested several times but he refuses to leave Russia, instead he encourages other people to stand up to Putin.
Galiamina leads more than 150 Russian women known as the Gentle Power. “Most of our women are mothers, who see problems from the point of view of the future of our children and without Putin, in Russia, we will finally be free.” Galiamina and Soft Power activists are collecting signatures of people speaking out against Putin’s mobilizing of the Russians. “We have collected more than 500,000 signatures and we will send them to the Kremlin, we know our responsibility,” he added.
“This is a dead end, his plan has failed in Ukraine“
— Olga Bychkova
Putin is still supported by 79 percent of Russians according to recent polls but trust is waning. Surveys by Levada, a Russian independent think tank, show that the number of Russians who believe their country is moving in the right direction has already fallen from 64 percent in October to 61 percent in the month of November.
All the Kremlin’s attempt to recreate Putin’s image as a superman has provoked another of the jokes on the Internet.
Putin posted one of his Action Man pictures earlier this month showing himself driving over a bomb-damaged bridge in Crimea. It was meant to show how strong and healthy he was in his 70s but internet commentators were more interested in the car he was driving. Not one of the Russian-made Ladas he’s promoted in the past—which motorists curse for “breaking down more often than the cheapest brands”—but a Mercedes built by Germany.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov managed to go on the record explaining that the Mercedes had just arrived and was no indication of Putin’s car preferences.
To make matters worse, his visit to internationally recognized Ukrainian territory, now annexed by Russia, came in a week when three explosions hit strategic airfields in the country. prince, one of them is only 150 miles from Moscow. The drone attacks made Russia’s air defenses and the commander look grim, even in the domestic media.
Last week, the Kremlin released a picture of Putin with a glass of champagne in his hand, and that caused a stir. there is a lot of talk about “mad Putin.”
The Kremlin seems to be having a hard time navigating it.
“The Kremlin’s cancellation of Putin’s summit is a sign: they know the hopelessness of their situation – this is endless, his plan has failed in Ukraine,” the famous Kremlin analyst Olga Bychkova told The Daily Beast. “They are still standing by him, because without Putin they are finished; but now, they cannot write a text, think of questions and answers for him.”
The latest debate among Putin critics is whether the tragedy in Ukraine was caused by one person or the entire Russian society. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch now imprisoned in London, told Radio Liberty last week—when Putin took the entire country with him during the 2014 annexation of Crimea— he has it now. “The war of 2020 was only created by Putin; Russian society was shocked on February 23,” he said.
The question now is how bad will the situation get?
Kasparov, a friend of Khodorkovsky, thinks there is another chance for the US to cut a circle between the president and his top lieutenants, such as Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Kremlin’s security council. He says the US needs to talk about what will happen if they let Putin push the nuclear button. Kasparov said he hoped CIA director William Burns “whispered something in Patrushev’s ear,” during a meeting among security chiefs in Moscow last month.
After years of national acclaim, Putin is living in isolation by the day.