Monday, March 23, 2020

Does Volodin’s Call to ‘Defend’ Putin Mean He is Under Threat? Some in Moscow Think So

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 18 – Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin’s remark that Vladimir Putin “gives us an advantage” has been quoted thousands of times but rarely together with the second half of his sentence in which we says “and we must defend him,” words that the Conspiracy of Elites telegram channel suggests indicate that the Kremlin leader is at risk of a coup.

            The conjunction of Putin’s campaign to amend the constitution to extend rule and the coronavirus threat has created a situation in which many who opposed him in private are now speaking out, objecting to specific policies and the president as such, the telegram channel says (

            “The situation among the elites given recent events has sharpened to the breaking point,” it continues. And it has even been “reported that the Federal Protection Service and the Russian Guard which are personally devoted to the president have been given special orders and instructions and that security measures around the first person have been strengthened.”

            According to the telegram channel, “the Kremlin is preparing for various scenarios, including opposing a coup or a revolution” given the confusion about and opposition to Putin’s constitutional changes and uncertainty about how to combat the coronavirus pandemic, including on whether to use the army to introduce martial law in the cities.

            Doing that is no easy task and would clearly be beyond the capacity of local police. But once the army is put in place in this way, the possibilities that it might take some political action or be used by those who want to cannot be excluded, the Conspiracy of Elites outlet continues, especially given how much opposition is now being expressed openly.

            “Domestic policy” in Russia, the channel continues, “has shifted” to something like martial law, “and the system will thus be developed and function according to the logic of the laws of military times,” a development that is “unprecedented for Russia” and that points to ever greater “turbulence” ahead.

            The channel suggests that “the struggle over closing Moscow” to fight the virus or even “introducing martial law” in the country as a whole is not just about dealing with the pandemic. It is fundamentally “a struggle for the future” of the country and its rulers and is increasingly viewed in that way by those near the center of power.

            Putin’s apparently forced decision to open the way for him to remain as president rather than to retain  power through the State Council is not “brining stability but rather the reverse,” the channel argues, because “it is provoking a new wave of aggressive pressure on the system both within and without.”

            In this battle, the Kremlin leader is “going for broke. Russia in fact has shifted to martial law and been converted into a besieged fortress. Therefore, in the near future, the political system will function according to that logic … and war, as is well known, writes off a great deal.”

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