Is Putin coming under domestic pressure?

Critical voices are growing louder in Russia: local politicians are collecting signatures demanding Putin's resignation and even pro-Kremlin media are somewhat sceptical about the conduct of the war. Yet according to official data, the candidates of Putin's party won a clear victory in regional elections last week, although observers see numerous indications of fraud. Commentators discuss the significance of these developments.

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Jutarnji list (HR) /

The propaganda cannot keep pace

Russian propagandists can hardly avoid discussing Ukraine's military successes anymore, Jutarnji list comments:

“Ultra-nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin, a former commander in the puppet state of Donetsk, has called on Russians 'not to read the news so as not to get upset' and [pro-Kremlin sociologist and journalist] Valery Korovin says 'one should not believe the Ukrainian and Western fake news about the situation on the front'. ... Putin's propaganda machine wasn't ready for the war to take such a turn. That's why there was no mention of it on the main news programme on Channel One Russia on September 11, for example. ... But they couldn't hide the latest developments and the withdrawal of Russian troops in this section of the front for long.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Silence still the main duty

The local politicians' appeal is being met with silence, says the Salzburger Nachrichten:

“The local deputies, some of whom lost their seats in the local elections on the weekend, are nothing more than the last remnants of the hopeful young opposition that rallied around Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as recently as 2018. ... It's likely that in Russia's ministries and boardrooms enthusiasm for the head of state's political course is dwindling, especially regarding his handling of the Ukrainian military operation. Perhaps this is already the case in the Kremlin as well. And certainly the number of ordinary Russians who have no more patience with either is growing. But they still regard silence as the main Russian civic duty.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Political competition has long been an illusion

Rigged elections are held to stifle protest, the Tages-Anzeiger writes:

“Independent candidates are not allowed to run for office. Bundles of fake ballot papers are stuffed into the ballot boxes. Bogus oppositional candidates create the illusion of political competition. ... Manipulated election results make the opposition look like a pitiful group of stragglers and suggest to anyone who disagrees with Putin's politics that they are alone. Since the beginning of the war, Russia has shown more clearly than ever how crippling this can be.”

Polityka (PL) /

Transfer of power instead of coup

Even if there were a change of government it would not put an abrupt end to Putin's influence, Polityka asserts:

“The scenario of a coup or a large-scale revolution is unlikely. In the event of growing popular discontent a 'transfer of power' seems more probable. This is what Boris Yeltsin opted for when he appointed Putin as his successor in return for certain security guarantees. If, in the face of defeat in Ukraine, Putin decides to take a leave of absence for health reasons and appoint a caretaker president (say until the 2024 elections), then a change in the Kremlin would be more of a slight course correction. But perhaps also a satisfactory one for the West.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

This isn't 1917

Putin is firmly in the saddle, the state news agency Ria Novosti declares:

“People are already beginning to talk of 'collusion' and 'betrayal within the leadership'. ... Regardless of the fact that defeatism, an apocalyptic mood and panic are also being stirred up by our military opponents, we need not fear a repeat of the 1915 to 1917 scenario - when in the course of the war the Russian state was overthrown from within because a large section of society was in the grips of a crazy idea about 'stupidity or betrayal' within the leadership. Confidence in Vladimir Putin remains at a very high level - as does the belief that the commander-in-chief is determined to win a victory.”