The resounding advance of the Ukrainian troops generates the first fissures in the Russian political scene | International
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The clear advance of the Ukrainian forces in the east of the country on positions that had been in Russian hands for months has opened the first fissures in the political discourse in Russia, until now little given to airing discrepancies about the official line set by the Kremlin. The leaders of Russian propaganda openly urge the execution of the commanders who had to defend the enormous lost territory, while other voices related to power now call for the punishment of those who convinced Vladimir Putin that his troops would be received with hugs in Ukraine. The coups in Kharkiv and Kherson also coincide with a new challenge from the opposition, residual but eloquent. Almost 40 councilors from the two largest cities in the country have addressed Parliament to propose the dismissal of the president, Vladimir Putin, under the accusation of high treason, an initiative that is gaining supporters as the hours go by. Chechen President Razman Kadyrov has openly spoken of errors in the Kremlin’s strategy.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive, which has been gaining ground in a matter of hours in recent days, took Russia by surprise. On Saturday, as kyiv announced it had retaken key posts like Kharkiv, Putin was inaugurating Europe’s biggest Ferris wheel in Moscow, as the capital’s residents danced and drank for the city’s 875th anniversary. The Russian Ministry of Defense, after the silence that followed the successive announcements of the Ukrainian authorities, finally announced an “orderly withdrawal” in the Kharkov region, where it has not only lost the initiative and important cities such as Izium, but also a knot key railway for the supply of his army.
In Russia there are sectors that on this occasion have not agreed with the official justification. For now, criticism has intensified against Putin’s lower echelons, still shielded by two decades in which propaganda built an aura of infallibility around him.
The interpretation of the withdrawal of the Chechen president, Razmán Kadírov, has been significant. In a message broadcast on his Telegram channel, he referred to “the fact that [el ejército ruso] has gone and given away several cities”. “I am not a strategist like those of the Ministry of Defense, but mistakes were made,” he added, and warned that if there are no immediate changes in what they continue to call a “special military operation”, he will seek to communicate directly not only with the ministry, but with the leadership of the country, that is, Putin. That message is interpreted as a clear example of the Chechen leader’s discomfort with the course of the war.
The armed forces, the institution most valued by Russians, even more than the Kremlin, according to polls, face enormous pressure. Putin refuses to decree the general mobilization of the population, an unpopular measure that demands the most hard-line wing. Meanwhile, journalists close to power charge against the army commanders. One of the heads of Kremlin propaganda, Rossiya 1 presenter Vladimir Solovyov, also stated on Telegram: “Many commanders in uniform (I would not dare to call them commanders) are worthy of dishonorable dismissal, a criminal trial or even execution, and I could name a few.”
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The crisis opened by the counterattack has put the Kremlin advisers and the army commanders in the spotlight for the time being. Several analysts and politicians questioned the development of the operations of the Russian troops in recent months in a debate on the popular NTV channel, whose control was taken by Putin as soon as he came to government decades ago.
“The people who convinced the president that the special operation would be quick and effective; that we would not bomb civilians, that we would arrive and the National Guard and the kadirovtsi [las fuerzas personales de Kadírov] they would bring order… those people set a trap for all of us,” said former State Duma deputy Boris Nadezhdin. “Do these people exist?” Asked the presenter. “Of course, the president doesn’t sit there and say, ‘I’m going to start a special operation.’ Someone told him that the Ukrainians would surrender and join Russia,” the analyst replied.
Life comes at you fast: pundits on Russian TV realize that their military is failing and their country is in trouble. They are starting to play the blame game. Some of them finally understand that their genocidal denial of the Ukrainian identity isn’t working in Russia’s favor. pic.twitter.com/jNNn5xifI5
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) September 11, 2022
The frankness of the debate surprised Russia. The deputy and leader of Just Russia, Sergei Mirónov, maintained the speech of these months that there can be no negotiations with “the Nazi regime of Zelensky”, but he was immediately criticized by a large part of the guests present, in addition to Nadezhdin. Political pundit Viktor Olevich blamed him that “everything is said to be going according to plan, but no one would think six months ago that the plan would be to withdraw now.” Another well-known commentator, Alexei Timofeyev, took the opportunity to recall that the official media insisted that if the army entered Odessa, “the risk would be receiving very strong hugs from the population.” “These mistakes have been criminal, catastrophic, why should we continue to listen to the opinion of these experts?”, He criticized him openly.
One of the most criticized commentators is now one of the best known faces of Russian propaganda. The director of Russia Today, Margarita Simonian, who said in a pre-war television colloquium that Russia “would defeat Ukraine in two days.” Today marks the 201st day since the start of the offensive and its troops are withdrawing on several fronts.
Putin dismissed for high treason
The arrest of several opposition politicians for their criticism of the war has not silenced criticism of Putin. With access to the national Parliament prohibited, Russian politics takes place largely in the District Councils of the big cities. A group of councilors from St. Petersburg, the country’s second largest city, caused a new tremor days ago by officially asking the Duma that Putin could be fired for high treason. This post-election Monday already had 38 signatures from 18 districts of this city, Moscow and Kolpino. As the hours passed, more councilors joined the initiative.
“It is an intelligent and very careful writing. I hope that we will not be prosecuted for any reason because we have not done anything illegal, we comply with federal laws for this procedure and we present arguments to verify, according to the Constitution, if an impeachment procedure can be applied to him, ”explains one of his promoters, Nikita Yuferev.
His letter was later joined by more Moscow councillors. “We want to address Putin’s audience to think. If they believed that the expansion of NATO was a threat to Russia, now with its decision of 24-F [el 24 de febrero, día del inicio de la ofensiva] it turns out that the Atlantic Alliance has grown and with the accession of Finland its border has doubled”, he adds. “We consider that the initiative taken by Putin has increased the risk for the Russian Federation and its population. Now Ukraine is a danger because as a result of 24-F it has received weapons valued at 38,000 million dollars”, he affirms with controlled language to the millimeter.
“Our arguments are that Putin was wrong,” says Yuferev. “And the situation of our soldiers, the economic bankruptcy and the problems of the young generation cannot be ignored. The Russian economy suffers seriously”, he adds.
The idea was proposed by another colleague from his St. Petersburg district, Dmitri Paliuga. Yuferev had addressed the Presidential Administration on March 2 to request the cessation of the offensive, but received no response. “Later, in August, I wrote to the president with a personal letter asking him to end the special operation on humanitarian grounds,” Yuferev says. “There was already UN data confirming that there were six million Ukrainian refugees and more than 5,000 dead, including more than 300 children, verified by the United Nations,” recalls the politician. “They told me they would read the letter,” was the last he heard until now.
Paliuga will be tried this Tuesday “for discrediting the president of the Russian Federation.” “It seems that the plan is clear: make a decision with me and then punish the rest of the councilors,” he said on his Twitter account, where he reported that the police had called him. “They asked me if I regret having made this decision about betrayal [de Putin]. I’m glad I took it! I am proud of every councilmember! I have received a lot of messages from strangers. There are many of us!” she added.
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