Sunday, July 8, 2018

New Wave of Bad News after World Cup Likely to Increase Russians' Anger at the Kremlin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 6 – The Kremlin sought to reduce the amount of bad news in state media during Putin’s presidential campaign, and it has been doing the same thing during the World Cup. The result now is likely to be the same as the result earlier: a dramatic upsurge in negative stories after the competition is over and a concomitant rise in popular anger.

            The Kremlin obviously failed at least in part in its effort to use the World Cup to distract Russians from the harsh social measures like raising the retirement age and increasing taxes because Russians, however rightfully proud they were about their team and the competition as such, could easily see that the regime was picking their pockets once again.

            But just as the Kremlin appears to have forgotten how its earlier good news offensive ended in rubble after the March vote with horror stories about burning shopping centers and horrific crimes, so too many observers appear to have forgotten how that uptick had the effect of laying the foundations for the popular outrage about pension reforms and other regime actions.

            It thus is likely that as angry as Russians are today, they will soon be angrier yet because many of the most horrific stories, including the dramatic increase in the number of wildfires in Siberia and the Far East, have not been covered in the Moscow media but are likely to be once the footballers go home.

            The Telegram channel, Forbidden Opinion, however, has addressed this issue and suggests that when the torrent of bad news does come, it will further exacerbate political tensions in the country and that the Russian opposition must be ready to do battle with the regime and not simply hold more protests (

            If the current opposition leaders are incapable of doing that, two scenarios are likely: Either the regime will engage in a new wave of repression to prevent the country from moving toward a radical political crisis; or new leaders will emerge who will be able to capture the anger of the population and challenge the regime. 

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