In Russia it is everyone against everyone, but in the Kremlin no one is against Putin

In Russia it is everyone against everyone, but in the Kremlin no one is against Putin

“No coup or ‘successor operation'”, it is noted in Moscow. Only internal elite struggles to get favors from the Tsar. Which many “consider eternal”. But the population feels betrayed by the mobilization and begins to criticize the president.

Nothing new on the home front. In Moscow it was a normal weekend in early autumn. Pleasant temperature. Who hasn’t gone to the dacha, the little house outside the city where the Russians love to grow cucumbers, fruit and potatoes, maybe took a walk downtown.

It was neither blocked by the police nor invaded by the Dzerzhynsky division, the rapid intervention unit (Odon) of Rosvgvardiya, the praetorians of Vladimir Putin. The news about it, spread on social media by Ukrainian newspapers and profiles that cited the secret services of Kyiv, were false.

If ever there were any arrests in the high ranks of the army, they were carried out in secret. Certainly not during the showy operations typical of coups or counter-coups.

Nobody touches the Tsar

“There is no action underway against Putin,” Russian political analyst Anton Barbashin, editorial director of the Riddle think tank, told “Nothing has changed. The president is not criticized for the moment. Not even from the propaganda hawks. Who stigmatize the disastrous course of the war in Ukraine but blame the defense minister and the generals “.

No indication, at the moment, that a change at the top is being prepared. “A ‘successor operation’ has not been set in motion,” explains sociologist and political philosopher Greg Yudin, a professor at the Moscow School of Economic and Social Sciences (Msses, better known as Shaninka). “It is true that there are internal struggles in the elites, but I do not see a radical change that could put the president at risk. Indeed, he is fighting to get more favors ”.

The warlords

“It is about acquiring more shares in the existing market,” explains Barbashin. It is above all the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and the businessman Yevgeny Prigozhyn who get busy and up the ante. They can afford it because they both have a private army: Prigozhyn the mercenaries of Wagner and Kadyrov his personal guard, the Kadyrovtsy of the 141st Special Motorized Regiment.

Yes, Putin’s Russia is also this: the friends of the Tsar can keep their armies. Those who still delude themselves that the Moscow regime is acceptable would do well to keep this in mind. Both warlords in the Tsar’s court hope to put their men at the top of the defense ministry and the armed forces in order to better manage their business in the empire, including Ukraine.

Because they remain certain of the victory over Kyiv and the perpetuation of the Putin system.

Putin forever

“I understand it’s hard to believe, but in Russia – among the elites and beyond – many consider Putin and his regime as eternal”, Yudin underlines to “They can’t imagine a world without Putin. This is why the nuclear threat is to be taken damn seriously ”, is his chilling comment. “A world without Putin would not make sense, many think of the Kremlin and in the country”.

The contact with reality is now missing. The people closest to the boss live in a bubble and do not speculate that it will burst soon. They believe in the propaganda they invented: Russia must save the world from the “Satanism” (definition of Vladimir Putin) of the West, at any cost. Apocalypse included.

Realism and fidelity

Alongside the fanatics, both in the more conservative area and among the technocrats and in the business world, there are also those who keep their feet on the ground and work on their own exit strategies in the event of a deterioration of the situation. They are the ones who are not clear on how Putin will ever win this war.

Or, to put it differently, how will he not lose it. “For the most part, however, they would not want Putin to be replaced by another leader, but rather to become more extremist, more decisive and explicit about his plans and intentions,” Tatiana Stanovaya, political scientist and director of the think tank R. Politik which relies on sources close to the Russian presidential administration.

“They want to see Putin as the strong man they used to see. But I really don’t think this will lead to a revolt, certainly not against him ”. We are preparing for a later, but hopefully Putin will last as long as possible and nothing is planned to provoke its downfall. And if it came to Armageddon, it would not be the end of the line, these realists say unrealistically.

Kerch’s insult

Meanwhile, Putin’s reaction to the Kerch bridge mockery is being assessed. It took him 38 hours to call it a “terrorist attack” and blame Ukraine. Shortly after, the missiles on Kyiv.

What he will do again will be a yardstick for those in Moscow who want an even more aggressive commander-in-chief. But it is above all the international community that is holding its breath.

The Kerch bridge after the explosion

In Russia, by now, the nuclear dimension is the new reality: it is talked about as if nothing had happened. With us, a little less. According to Anton Barbashin, the retaliation will be harsh but conventional: “Bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, perhaps an acceleration to prepare for a counter-offensive. But the threat of using nuclear weapons is only a bluff, and in this case it will be proven. I believe that there will never be a test or even a demonstration detonation in an uninhabited area “.

Let’s hope the analyst is right. Professor Yudin is more pessimistic: “The danger is real,” he says. And he warns the West: “The last thing to do is to give in to nuclear blackmail. Otherwise, others could only follow, total war would become inevitable and the world would be doomed ”.

An almost normal weekend

In Moscow this normal weekend there were fewer people than usual around the center. The Russians try to live as usual but their mood deteriorates. In restaurants, after the partial mobilization proclaimed by Putin, the turnover decreased by 30%. You go out less. Above all, men go out less.

He didn’t show up. Now he doesn’t know what to do “. Hide? Trying to escape abroad? Leaving a wife, a young child, a home and a good job, and thus eliminating life? “He hopes that they are wrong and that they are not looking for him anymore,” says Marina. Ivan has never been interested in politics. But now “he hates Putin and this war”.

The mobilization causes “anxiety, fear and horror” in almost 50% of Russians, the independent statistical institute Levada found. Perhaps if we want to find signs of an imminent end of the regime we must start looking for them not only in the restlessness of the elites but also among ordinary people. Who could get tired of continuing to hope for a normality that the president, with his actions in recent months, has definitively denied. The passivity and patience of the Russians have a limit. When overtaken, upheavals in the largest country in the world run as fast as Gogol’s ringing troika in the February snow.