Ukraine counteroffensive reignites criticism of Putin in Russia and weakens Kremlin’s position
“Russia has not lost anything and will not lose anything in Ukraine” assured Russian President Vladimir Putin last Wednesday. This optimism of the Russian leader is difficult to see today in other official voices, which call for changing the course of the Ukrainian army, either to “stop killing Ukrainians” or to recognize that what is happening in Ukraine is a war and not a “special military operation”. This is the Kremlin’s official terminology since last February 24 to talk about the deployment of Russian troops in the neighboring country.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced last Saturday a “regrouping” of troops in the face of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkov oblast. On the same day that the government announced this measure, some city councilors of Moscow and St. Petersburg called for Putin’s resignation for “treason”.
This Tuesday there are already 85 politicians from different districts of the two big cities of Russia signing this petition. “We, the municipal deputies of Russia, believe that the actions of President Vladimir Putin harm the future of Russia and its citizens. We demand Putin’s resignation as President of the Russian Federation!” reads the text. The promoter of the letter, St. Petersburg councilman Dmitry Palyuga, will be tried this Tuesday “for discrediting the President of the Russian Federation.” In social networks he wrote that “it seems that the plan is clear: make a decision with me and then punish the rest”.
In the body of it they also justify that “with the beginning of the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine on the actions of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, there are indications of a crime covered by Article 73 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, high treason.” They also highlight the setbacks suffered by the Eurasian country since the beginning of the conflict, as Russian citizens are dying – no data on casualties are provided since March -, the country’s economy has deteriorated, a great capital and brain drain is taking place. More than a thousand foreign multinationals have left the country and hundreds of thousands of Russians have left the country.
Emboldened Russian nationalists
These are not the only criticisms of Russian leadership. “This is a war, not a military operation. We need a general mobilization” assured Guenadi Zyuganov, leader of the Russian Communist Party on Tuesday. He called on the Russian president to formally declare war on Ukraine. He reasoned that “what is underway is a war and we must not lose it. We must not panic (…) we need totally different laws.”
Another prominent voice of Putinism, Chechnya’s governor Ramzan Kadyrov, also showed his discontent on social networks. On his Telegram channel he wrote that “they (military commanders) have made mistakes and I think they will draw the necessary conclusions.” He added that “if today or tomorrow the strategy is not changed, I will be forced to talk to the commanders of the Defense Ministry and the country’s leadership to explain to them the real situation on the ground.”
Noise in media and social networks
Russian state media also admits that “it has been the most difficult week on the frontline since the beginning of the “special operation.” These words were uttered by one of the most important voices of Perviy Kanal, the presenter Dmitry Kisilyyov. In the networks bloggers specialized in military issues, supporters of the Kremlin, also criticized the leadership in Ukraine and asked to recognize the Ukrainian advances, as there are photos to prove them.
The Russian authorities have taken note of these criticisms from both sides and have responded with the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. This has launched a warning to sailors on Tuesday: “Russians give their support to the Russian president (…) as long as critical views are kept within the limits of the current law, this is pluralism. But the line is extremely fine. They have to be careful.”