Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Puppet Strings are Showing: Kremlin’s Controls Increasingly on Public Display

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – A major difference between Soviet times and Putin’s is that now the orders to officials and politicians from above are increasingly out in the open, making the current regime’s manipulation all the more offensive precisely because it is visible since it is not yet as total.

            Some Russian politicians and commentators have already learned to read the Kremlin’s intentions so carefully that there is no need for such directives as this week when former Russian critics of the US transformed themselves overnight into pro-American mouthpieces overnight just as Soviet ones changed from anti-Hitler to pro-Hitler after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

            One Moscow newspaper has documented that without specifying exactly how these people knew to make the shift (; but three other reports this week reflect the fact that Putin’s puppet strings are now increasingly in public view and thus unintentionally part of the public discussion.

            Significantly, all three involve efforts by the regime to suppress anger about the Russian government’s plans to boost pension ages. First, in Pskov, the authorities have ordered all district newspapers to reprint articles from the center which promote the pension reforms  (
            Second, the powers that be have ordered Russian commentators in the central media – and undoubtedly in the regional and local media as well -- not to use the term “pension reform” lest they further rile the population ( and

            And third, the Kremlin has directed members of the Duma not to criticize Putin for the pension reform plans lest they cause the population to recognize who is, despite repeated denials, really responsible for the deeply unpopular move (

            This list could be extended, but these three reports are enough to indicate that the Putin regime has not yet found a reliable way to give orders to its minions without the risk that even the increasingly restricted Russian media will be able to report about this process, coverage that will further erode support for the regime at least among the politically attentive. 

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