Is the Ukraine war weakening Putin’s position in Russia? | Russia-Ukraine war News

Even though it’s happening Words of PeaceAn end to Russia’s Ukraine war does not appear to be in sight.

And as Ukrainian cities come under attack, quieter pressure is mounting in Russia as it grows increasingly isolated on the international stage.

Sanctions are in effect and there is disagreement – what the authorities are adamant about the person i like – growing, reported even in the Kremlin.

As the war rages on, observers are asking: is Vladimir Putin’s position faltering?

The Russian president has the unwavering support of lawmakers, as evidenced by a recent vote a few days before the fighting began. recognize Ukraine’s separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

Of the 450 members of the Duma, 351 supported the move, as approved by Putin.

At the same time, Putin’s United Russia party has accused rigged the vote, keeping him in power for over 20 years.

However, some observers say that with sanctions hitting the economy hard, a push to remove Putin from power is likely to accelerate.

Volodymyr Ishchenko, a Ukrainian sociologist who has studied revolutions in the post-Soviet arena, disagrees with this view.

He told Al Jazeera: “I don’t think revolution is the most likely outcome of the sanctions, given that rising grievances are not enough to start an uprising.

Rather, there should be “split between classes, unity of the opposition, structure of coordination and mobilization”.

In the early 20th century, the Russian Empire experienced two revolutions involving unpopular wars – one in 1905 after a humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 and another in 1917 during World War I.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, other newly independent republics experienced a series of popular uprisings, with governments overthrown in Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova. There were three revolutions in Kyrgyzstan and three more in Ukraine.

Putin has spent a large part of the past two decades preparing himself against so-called “color revolutions”, such as the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which he think planned from Washington.

This includes the removal of opposition figures such as now jailed Alexey Navalny, whose political movement has been outlawed but continues to be active and are helping organize demonstrations.

“As for the opposition, it is in bad shape,” Ishchenko said. “Navalny’s movement is repressed. Besides, the opposition was divided by war. The Communists and many other parties who can ally with the opposition will strongly support the war now.”

Ishchenko told Al Jazeera that the exodus of most of the antiwar Russians – estimated at more than 200,000 since February – made a mass uprising all the more unlikely.

Such a scenario would require exiles to stay in effective communication with their homeland, which can be difficult because travel is restricted and Russians do not have a VPN. blocked from social media.

“The palace coup is now more likely than a revolution. Although, I’m not sure that a possible elite plot against Putin would precede a major defeat in Ukraine.

“So in the end, the balance of forces on the Ukrainian battlefields will determine the possibility of a coup, or revolution, or the survival and consolidation of the Putin regime. Not the other way around.”

If not for a popular uprising, perhaps oligarchs and officials within Putin’s inner circle, frustrated with sanctions and unable to enjoy a cruise off the southern coast of the country. France, may try to unseat the president.

‘Everybody knows what Putin does to traitors’

On March 1, independent Russian journalist Farida Rustamova said sources in the Russian elite close to Mr Putin told her they were as shocked at the start of the war as others, with one person. describe the situation as a “crowd**k”.

Sources say Mr Putin has become out of touch with reality over the past two years, isolating himself in a bunker and only meeting face-to-face with his closest confidants.

But after that initial shock, Russian elites are accepting the new reality, Rustamova, who has worked for the BBC Russian and independent TV channels TV Rain and Meduza, told Al Jazeera.

“Many people have now made peace with it,” she said. “There is a feeling that nothing can be done, and until this is over, they need to survive somehow. They cannot leave, because if you resign or refuse to work in wartime, you will be a traitor, and everyone knows what Putin does to traitors.”

Once in power, Putin quickly appealed to the oligarchs who had dominated Russian business, media and politics in the 1990s. He called the country’s top oligarchs to a meeting. meeting and warned them not to get involved in politics.

Those who did not comply, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovsky, were either jailed, forced to leave, or both. Those who succeeded in the 1990s and were allowed to stay have largely accepted the status quo. They were a little wobbly in front of the Kremlin.

“While it is reasonable to expect an anti-war stance from the liberal side of Russia’s elite, over the years Putin has thoroughly purged them and kept them tight, and they certainly will. did not move on,” Rustamova said.

Putin, a former KGB officer, instead surrounded himself with security officials and installed loyalists in key positions, such as Viktor Zolotov, the head of the National Guard in charge homeland security. But he made sure that none of the so-called siloviki, or “forces,” became too powerful: the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the military directorate (GRU) handled it. intelligence, while the Federal Protective Service is the bodyguard of the president.

According to political scientist and Russian armed forces expert Pavel Luzin, “There is a kind of political sect consisting of several generals and other high-ranking officers around Putin and they believe in the restoration of the Empire. Russian Empire – it’s a kind of religion. for them.

“Then there are law enforcement officers and former law enforcement officials who were engaged in mid-level business in formal public and private corporations in the face of Russian aggression, and they are losing almost anything these days; there are armed forces who are unhappy about the invasion because they understand the terrible consequences; and the police, who don’t have much influence”.

He said that the Kremlin was “afraid” of the army and police, and did not trust anyone.

“In this way, I do not expect the forced departure of Putin under the current circumstances. The situation may change in case of further escalation”.

Siloviki may also fear being blamed if the fight goes horribly wrong.

There are unconfirmed reports that Colonel Sergei Beseda of the FSB was placed under house arrest after telling Putin that the war in Ukraine would be won quickly. Speculation is also growing about Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who has not appeared in public for almost two weeks.

But beyond popular power, a businessman’s uprising or a military coup, Luzin proposes a fourth possibility: as Russia’s social and financial woes increase in the aftermath of the war. competition, local government and officials, previously excluded, will be selected. while Putin is said to sit in his bunker, isolated from the world.

“In short, Putin has distanced himself from the government. In this way, the bureaucracy can start acting without Putin, just ignoring him,” said Luzin. “If this kind of action is taken, the result will change the Russian political regime even without any coups.”

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