Will the mood in Russia turn against Putin?

Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine is now taking its toll on its own population. Following Putin's mobilisation, the authorities are not being picky and are recruiting men en masse without regard for their age, health or previous military experience. Now that Russia is on the defensive militarily, the people's unease is growing. Commentators discuss how dangerous this could be for Putin.

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Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Growing frustration in the power apparatus

Disgruntled officials pose a threat to Putin, writes Gazeta Wyborcza:

“For almost a quarter of a century Putin has done everything to ensure that there is no one in the country behind whom the state apparatus, which was and is the basis of all Kremlin power, could 'get in line', as they say in Russia. ... However, its 'nutritional basis' is shrinking. The companies are getting poorer and less able to pay bribes. ... The Kremlin boss himself has already pointed to the frustration of state officials. He complains that they are drinking much more and their discipline is weakening. And in this situation they might look for someone else to 'get in line' behind.”

Andrei Movchan (RU) /

No one wants his job

For investment banker Andrei Movchan the havoc wreaked by the Kremlin chief is what keeps him in power. He posts on Facebook:

“Who in their right mind would want to take the number one spot in Russia today, to deal with the collapse of the army, the economic crisis and competing armed formations in the country? And to have to concede an inevitable loss of territory to boot? It seems to me that in such a situation, any aspiring successor is likely to wait until the incumbent emperor has solved the worst problems - otherwise the blame and consequences will be transferred to him. But the emperor won't be in any hurry either: in the absence of willing parties, he can continue to calmly rule. And the worse things get, the calmer he can be.”

Público (PT) /

Injustice has long since become the norm

Commenting in Público, journalist Esther Mucznik says she doubts that the partial mobilisation will lead to a revolt against Putin:

“It is true that despite the repression there are protests, especially by young people, and endless queues of people fleeing the mobilisation. But is that enough? Personally I seriously doubt it. And these doubts are based on the long history of absolute power, dictatorship, corruption, repression and imprisonment. ... But perhaps even more important is the contempt for human life and the resulting fear that is spreading among a population that has for the most part grown used to living with cruelty, injustice and censorship.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

Putin never more vulnerable

The situation is completely unpredictable, says Spotmedia:

“It will be interesting to follow the dynamics of internal tensions in the coming days. The mortal fear of those who are being forced to go to war has caused extreme volatility. Anything can happen now. The social networks are full of video clips showing conflicts between desperate parents and authorities, between recruits and future commanders, and between demonstrators and security forces. It is premature to speak of the fall of the regime, but Vladimir Putin has never been more vulnerable.”

Maxim Mironov (RU) /

Escape only helps individuals

Economist Maxim Mironov explains in a Facebook post that leaving or hiding won't save Russian society from the consequences of the mobilisation:

“Unfortunately this strategy is not likely to reduce the number of conscripts in the first months of the campaign. Since the pool of those eligible to be called up is quite large, refusing to serve will allow wealthier, better informed young people to avoid conscription at the expense of their less well-off peers. So this strategy will not prevent the massive and senseless loss of lives when hundreds of thousands of conscripts are sent to Ukraine.”

Gordonua.com (UA) /

War against ethnic minorities

It is mainly members of non-Russian populations who are being sent to fight against Ukraine, gordonua.com notes:

“In annexed Crimea, Crimean Tatar youths are being called up en masse. In Buryatia, entire villages are being surrounded and all the men taken by force. According to locals, the extermination of the Buryats is part of a strategy by Russian clans to gain complete control over Lake Baikal and the surrounding areas. The genocide of the Crimean Tatars, meanwhile, has long been a fixed imperial idea. ... So even if the mobilisation achieves nothing in Ukraine, the imperial regime in Moscow believes it will still benefit.”

Visão (PT) /

The line has been crossed

Visão is not surprised by the protests in Russian cities:

“With his intimidating speech and the underlying plan to annex the Ukrainian territories, as well as the direct threat to use nuclear weapons, Putin has exceeded the limits of domestic acceptance. If the Russian troops have no equipment and no reserves, the same applies in mirror image to the Russian population, which can no longer lead a normal life without products and goods, and with roubles in their pockets that serve no purpose. The line has been crossed. Patience has run out and demonstrations are spreading.”

wPolityce.pl (PL) /

Changes in the Kremlin no longer out of the question

wPolityce sees reason to hope for change in Russia:

“The scale of the anti-mobilisation protests that have gripped Russia is surprising. Taking to the streets in wartime to protest against forced conscription shows determination. ... It is hard to avoid the impression that Putin has made a second big mistake. The first was to attack Ukraine, the second was to announce the mobilisation and set the course for escalation. If the West does not allow itself to be intimidated, we will see - and soon - a change of power in the Kremlin.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Still firmly in the saddle

The announcement is unlikely to make much of an impact, social scientists Andrei Kolesnikov and Denis Volkov comment in a guest article for Der Standard:

“At this stage there is little reason to believe that Putin's regime is in any real danger. Russians mainly blame the US, Europe and Nato for their current problems - and the sanctions have done nothing to dispel this impression. Moreover, both the political opposition and civil society have been destroyed. ... The question is whether a further deterioration of the socioeconomic situation can make Russians finally turn against Putin.”

Novi list (HR) /

Loyalty to Putin put to the test

Novi list writes:

“The first indication of how things really stand in Russia will come when the mobilisation of the 300,000 reservists Putin announced yesterday actually begins. ... If 300,000 new Russian soldiers really do arrive in eastern Ukraine in the next few weeks, or if the mobilisation succeeds on a large scale, it will be clear that Putin enjoys the solid support of Russia's citizens. If far fewer soldiers arrive in the war zone than expected, it will show that Putin has far less support than his media would have us believe.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Scrambling to escape

Russian men are rushing to leave the country to avoid being called up, observes Milliyet:

“The predictable reaction was immediate: flights to Istanbul sold out. Those who want to save themselves are scrambling to get outside the country before the decision becomes law. Since there are no more flights to other European countries and Schengen visas are no longer valid, Istanbul and other airports in Turkey are the only escape route for those who do not want to join the military.”