Russian anti-war protests could trigger Putin’s ‘downfall’: ‘No regard for his people!’

Russia sanctions: Ukrainian woman says Putin won’t stop

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As the Russian military bared down on Kyiv brave protesters in over 50 Russian cities took to the streets in opposition to Putin’s war. More than 1,800 people were arrested at rallies across the country on Thursday night. Meanwhile in Putin’s home city of St Petersburg a major protest saw hundreds of young Russians chanting against the President despite Russia’s Investigative Committee having issued a warning reminding the public that protest is illegal.

Prominent Russians shocked by the invasion of Ukraine have also risked their livelihoods by going public with their opposition to the war.

On Thursday, Ivan Urgant, who is host of a popular Russian talk show on state-run Channel One posted “Fear and pain. No to war” on his Instagram. 

His show has since gone off air with several reports in Russian media claiming that Mr Urgant has been blacklisted.

Similarly Elena Kovalskaya, who is director of the Meyerhold Centre in Moscow quit her position at the state-financed theatre in protest over the war.

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With domestic pressure mounting on Putin, historian Ms Ben-Ghiat suggested that Putin’s desire to revive the Soviet empire could backfire due to public opposition.

Writing for US publication MSNBC, Ms Ben-Ghiat said: “A rogue attack against Ukraine will likely only bring more disillusionment and further expose the President’s total lack of regard for his own people.

“The new international resolve to levy sanctions against the country and its elites will impact the Russian economy, as will the costs of the conflict.”

On Friday UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit Russia with what he called the “largest set of sanctions ever imposed anywhere by the UK Government”.

Downing Street confirmed five oligarchs particularly close to the Kremlin will be sanctioned including Kirill Shamalov, Putin’s former son-in-law.

The Prime Minister added that more than 100 businesses and individuals will be targeted with sanctions, including “all the major manufacturers that support Putin’s war machine.”

Elsewhere the EU agreed to another set of sanctions targeting Russia’s financial, energy and transport sectors in particular.

Ms Ben-Ghiat continued: “Now that Germany is on board to table the certification of Putin’s cherished Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a collective will to finally find alternatives to dependence on Russian energy may also emerge.

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“With typical strongman hubris, Putin has clearly underestimated the willingness of Ukrainians to fight against him. 

“This war will create numerous Russian casualties, which even reported mobile crematoria which could hide evidence of Russian dead, won’t be able to mask.”

A Levada Centre poll in February 2021, the month anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny was sentenced, suggested a disaffection with Putin’s brand of governance among a younger generation.

While Putin’s support from older Russians remained steady, 48 percent of respondents between 18 and 24 thought the country was going in the wrong direction.

Putin, who as a former KGB agent endured the fall of the Berlin Wall as “a personal tragedy”, and so considers protest “dangerous” claimed the Atlantic staff writer Anne Applebaum.

Ms Applebaum said: “As the world’s television screens blared out news of the Cold War’s end, Putin and his KGB comrades in the doomed Soviet satellite state were frantically burning all of their files, making calls to Moscow that were never returned, fearing for their lives and their careers.

“For KGB operatives this was not a time of rejoicing but rather a lesson about the nature of street movements and the power of rhetoric: democratic rhetoric, authoritarian rhetoric, anti-totalitarian rhetoric.

“Putin, like his role model Yuri Andropov, who was the Soviet ambassador to Hungary during the 1956 revolution there, concluded from that period that spontaneity is dangerous.

“Protest is dangerous. Talk of democracy and political change is dangerous.

“To keep them from spreading, Russia’s rulers must maintain careful control over the life of the nation. 

“Markets cannot be genuinely open; elections cannot be unpredictable; dissent must be carefully ‘managed’ through legal pressure, public propaganda, and, if necessary, targeted violence.”

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