The military successes of the Ukrainian army weaken the Kremlin. Despite censorship, weariness and doubt seem to creep into part of the Russian population.
The Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine which was to last only a few days and quickly install a pro-Kremlin regime in kyiv drags on. Worse, launched about two weeks ago, the Ukrainian counter-offensive on the southern and northeastern fronts is bearing fruit.
On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his army had taken over 6,000 km² of territory controlled by Russian forces. Faced with these significant breakthroughs, Moscow has “withdrawn” its troops from the Kharkiv region and recognizes a “difficult” situation.
Could this military fiasco shake Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia? In the country, voices are rising to demand a halt to the invasion of Ukraine.
“It is absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine”
This is an unprecedented speech on Russian television. During a usually pro-Putin talk show, a former deputy and vice-president of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, takes aim at Vladimir Putin and his mismanagement of the war in Ukraine.
“We have reached a point where we must understand that it is absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine with these resources and these methods of colonial warfare”, launches Boris Nadezhdin.
“I suggest peace talks to stop the war and to consider the resolution of political problems”, continues the former MP, adding that a “strong army opposes the Russian army with the support of the most powerful countries in the economic as well as technological sense”.
Demands to indict Putin for ‘high treason’
Proof of a certain disavowal vis-à-vis the head of the Kremlin, in recent days, two groups of elected municipal officials, one in St. Petersburg and the other in Moscow, even asked for his resignation, accusing him in particular of plunging the country back into the era of the Cold War.
“Russian soldiers are being killed, young people are being injured, the Russian economy is in bad shape… So we sent a letter to the Duma to make the decision to indict the president for high treason” , explains the Russian elected official Nikita Yuferof.
Vladimir Putin “started a war that is leading Russia to catastrophe, not only Russia, but also Ukraine. We believe that since the war started, everyone is tired of Putin and his games”, continues Dmitry Palyuga, author of the appeal in St. Petersburg.
“Studies show that the inhabitants of countries where power changes regularly live on average better and longer than in those where the leader leaves office only with his feet first,” reads the letter from the elected Muscovites, in reference to Vladimir Putin’s 22 years in power.
Dissenting voices quickly dismissed
These standpoints mark a certain turning point in part of public opinion. However, they remain largely symbolic and have no chance of succeeding. Vladimir Putin “is protected by the security services and by part of the military. Part of the population indeed criticizes his defeat but it is not for all that ready to make the revolution, to go out in the street to bring down the power”, explains to BFMTV Nicolas Tenzer, professor specializing in Ukraine and Russia at Sciences Po.
In addition, repression is strong in the country and dissenting voices are quickly dismissed. The seven municipal deputies of Saint Petersburg were quickly summoned by the police, before being released. This does not mean that their act will go unpunished. Indeed, on July 8, an elected official was sentenced to seven years in prison for having publicly expressed his opposition to the invasion of Ukraine.