Russia can finally see that Putin’s ‘days are numbered’
More than two decades after coming to power, of President Putin control over the Russian people finally starts to fail.
The war in Ukraine It has opened a credibility gap and, for the first time, many Russians no longer feel they can trust what their leader tells them. Combined with harsh economic sanctions, reallocation of war funds, and nationwide recruitment drives, the costs of this vainglorious conquest are becoming increasingly difficult to bear.
Even loyal Russians have a lot of questions for Putin right now. And the Kremlin is running out of ways to cope with the pressure. In the past, a scripted appearance or a semi-nude photo shoot would be enough to get the national media back on his side. Sometimes they even gave independent journalists the chance to ask Putin a sensitive question or two, which he quickly and forcefully dismissed.
But all recent attempts to make Putin look like a strong and determined leader have failed so badly, even within Russia, that after nine months of devastating war in Ukraine, the Kremlin is running out of ideas. They even canceled Putin’s big annual press conference for the first time in years.
“Putin could have ruled longer if he had not started this war, but now his days are truly numbered.”
— yulia galamina
“Russia, like any other nation, wants to live a stable life without being ashamed of our leadership in Moscow. Before the war, Putin guaranteed us a stable life, but now he tells us that life in Russia will be good only in ten years, ”Vera Aleksandrovna, 57, a lawyer from St. Petersburg, told The Daily Beast. “I liked Putin before the war, my son was an IT technician, we liked the IT opportunities in Russia; but now all the brains and talent are slipping out of the country, my son is gone too, and I can’t afford to wait another ten years for a good life.”
Putin’s solid system is crumbling.
Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, told The Daily Beast that we are already entering the endgame for Putin. “Russia has obviously lost the war, which will lead to the collapse of the regime, but the question is how many more people will die before that happens,” he told The Daily Beast.
“Putin has never played chess, the game of rules, he played a game of poker,” Kasparov said. “Putin is absolute evil, he has gone crazy after 22 years in power; but in his bones he must understand that he cannot continue to rule Russia, when the war ends and tens of thousands of angry soldiers return home with weapons, feeling robbed”.
Tatiana Yashina, 62, the mother of jailed opposition leader Ilya Yashin, said a turning point in Putin’s regime came last week.
“Putin is falling apart,” he told The Daily Beast. “He’s clearly laying there in front of the cameras, not trusting his voice.”
Yashina had particular reason to pay attention to Putin’s state of mind because her son was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison last Friday, but the way the president handled the fallout from his unpopular imprisonment, for telling the truth about the war in Ukraine – it has made its way into the general population.
Veteran Kremlin pool reporter Andrei Kolesnikov he stood up to putin about Yashin’s phrase “bestial” in a video that went viral. Yashina said: “Shaky Putin… lied that he didn’t know my son, then he lied that he didn’t know anything about the sentence.”
Putin’s contortions no longer convince his domestic audience.
Hundreds of independent Russian and foreign journalists have left Russia over the past nine months, but some of those who remain, including BBC journalists, continue to spread the word about a commander-in-chief who is losing thousands of his soldiers, as well as some of the key territories of Ukraine. Last week, the BBC Russian service and the local publication Mediazona confirmed the names of 10,002 Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine. The actual Russian death toll “may exceed 20,000 and the total number of irrecoverable losses could be as high as 90,000,” the BBC said.
Polls both independent and controlled by the Kremlin Show that Putin has lost support for his war, with less than 30 percent of the country wanting it to continue. “Putin could have ruled longer, if he didn’t start this war, but now his days are really numbered, he is falling apart and he is clearly aware of it,” Yulia Galiamina, an opposition politician with headquarters in Moscow. Galiamina has been the victim of police violence and has been under arrest several times, but she refuses to leave Russia, instead encouraging more people to stand up to Putin.
Galiamina leads a movement of more than 150 Russian women called Soft Power. “Most of our women are mothers, who see the problems from the point of view of the future of our children without Putin, in Russia, which will eventually be free.” gallamine and Soft Power activists have been collecting signatures from people speaking out against Putin’s mobilization of Russians. “We have collected more than 500,000 signatures that we are going to send to the Kremlin, we understand our collective responsibility,” he added.
“This is a dead end, your plan has failed in Ukraine.”
— Olga Bychkova
Putin still has the support of around 79 percent of Russians according to recent polls, but that faith is waning. Studies by Levada, an independent Russian think tank, show that the number of Russians who believe their country is moving in the right direction has already dropped from 64 percent in October to 61 percent in November.
Every attempt by the Kremlin to rebuild Putin’s image as a superman seems to provoke another avalanche of jokes online.
Putin recorded one of his Action Man clips at the location earlier this month showing him driving over the bomb-damaged bridge into Crimea. He was supposed to show how fit and healthy he still is at the age of 70, but online commenters were more obsessed with the car he drove. He was not one of the Russian-made Ladas he had previously promoted, which motorists curse for “breaking down more often than even the cheapest foreign brands”, but a German-engineered Mercedes.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was forced to go on record that the Mercedes was available by chance and was not an indication of Putin’s vehicle preferences.
More damaging still, his trip to the internationally recognized Ukrainian territory, now annexed by Russia, came in the same week that three explosions hit strategic airfields inside the motherland, one just 150 miles from Moscow. The drone strikes made Russian air defenses and the commander in chief look pathetic, even in the national media.
Last week, the Kremlin published an image of Putin with a glass of champagne in hand, and that immediately raised many anecdotes about the “drunken Putin”.
The prevailing mood is becoming very difficult for the Kremlin to handle.
“The Kremlin’s cancellation of Putin’s big press conference is a sign: they realize how desperate their situation is; this is a dead end, his plan has failed in Ukraine,” well-known Kremlin observer Olga Bychkova told The Daily Beast. “They are still by his side, since without Putin they are finished; but now they can’t even write a script, come up with questions and answers for him.”
The latest debate among Putin’s critics is whether the catastrophe in Ukraine is the fault of one man or of the entire Russian society. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch-turned-prisoner now in exile in London, suggested to Radio Liberty last week that while Putin took the entire country with him during the 2014 annexation of Crimea, he is now on his own. “The 2020 war is a pure invention of Putin; Russian society had a shock on February 23, ”he said.
The question now is how much worse will the situation get?
Kasparov, a Khodorkovsky ally, believes there is now also an opportunity for the US to drive a wedge between the president and his top lieutenants, such as Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Kremlin security council. He says the US needs to explain what would happen if they ever let Putin push the nuclear button. Kasparov said he hoped CIA director William Burns would “whisper something in Patrushev’s ear” at a meeting between security chiefs in Moscow last month.
After years of adulation across the country, Putin is becoming more isolated by the day.