Thursday, September 27, 2018

In Past Crises under Putin, Russians Hoped for Improvement or a Miracle; Now They Don’t, Yakovina Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 26 – The past few days have been the worst week in Vladimir Putin’s time in office because in earlier crises like the Kursk sinking, the North East hostage seizure, and the Beslan disaster, Russians “had hope for the better or even for a miracle [but] now they don’t. Instead, they are certain things will only get worse,” Ivan Yakovina says.

            The Ukrainian journalist says the flood of bad news from all quarters, coming on top of increasing economic hardship, the pension reform debacle, and Putin’s breaking the social contract he had had with the population, explain this underlying and fundamental shift (

            “This year, for the first time in 20,” Yakovina continues, “the demand for reforms and changes exceed the demand for stability.” But neither Putin nor his government have been willing to change.  Earlier, Russians voted for Putin “hoping” he’d improve their lives, but instead, their lives have gotten worse and wars in Ukraine and Syria continue.

            As a result, “they are not very satisfied” and on September 9 they voted their pocketbooks and their feelings in local and regional elections.  But there are far more indications of popular discontent in Russia than just the voting in the two rounds so far, Yakovina says, pointing to a new upsurge in conflicts in the Caucasus and the flight of elites abroad.

            The regime doesn’t know what to do in either case, he argues; and the Russian people can see that too.  Thus, “an interesting situation is arising. Earlier, the powers that be in [Russia] covered all problems with money. But now this resource is exhausted,” even as “the problems themselves are becoming bigger.”

            The Kremlin is responding with repression and may become even more aggressive abroad; but even those steps aren’t having the desired impact. Instead of intimidating or winning support, they are increasingly making them angry. As a result, Yakovina concludes, radical challenges to Putin and his regime are becoming ever more likely.

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