Staunton, April 27 – In the runup to the March 18 presidential elections, Kremlin officials called for the media to boost good news stories in order to boost support for Vladimir Putin. Now in the wake of his victory, there has been a new flood of bad news before his inauguration that helps to explain declining levels of trust in him among Russians.
After a period of good news during the campaign, Znak journalist Yekaterina Vinokurova says, Putin has had to function in an environment both at home and abroad, there seems to be nothing but “tragedies, problems, and scandals.” Not surprisingly, he has lost support as a result (znak.com/2018-04-27/plohaya_informpovestka_grozit_isportit_inauguraciyu_putina).
“The new wave of sanctions by the US have inflicted enormous harm on Russian big business and led to another devaluation of the ruble,” she points out. The responses proposed in the Duma, especially those involving restrictions on medicines are deeply unpopular. Added to that has been the Kemerovo fire, trash protests, and the blocking of Telegram.
This bad news is already being used by elites to “attack one another,” Vinokurova says, intensifying conflicts between governors and others in the regions and leading to challenges of officials like Roskomnadzor’ss Aleksandr Zharov who are blamed for policies that have attracted so much negative press.
According to Konstantin Kalachev, head of the Moscow Political Experts Group, “the expansion of social optimism” in Russia “ended together with the elections,” something he says the most recent VTsIOM polls confirm. But up to now, the Kremlin isn’t worried because polls also show that Russians while angry aren’t ready to engage in protests.
If the wave of bad news persists, however, that could change, Kalachev suggests, and that would be “a systemic threat” that those in power would have to worry about.
Abbas Gallyamov, another Moscow political analyst, argues that the current “bad news” problem is the direct result of the Kremlin’s effort to suppress all public conflicts during the campaign. Now, they are simply resurfacing rather than emerging out of nowhere as it might seem to some.
According to Vinokurova, people near the Presidential Administration “do not consider” the president’s agenda in any way affected by these news stories. The Kremlin, they say, has a variety of means to change the focus of the media and can be expected to use them as the inauguration approaches.
Yevgeny Minchenko, a political consultant, agrees. The Kremlin thinks it is coping quite well with negative developments for which it bears no responsibility and that it can take steps like changing the make up of the government that will cause Russians to forget or at least downgrade their current concerns.
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