Russia’s war against Ukraine: reality meets Kremlin ruler

Moscow confirms annexation of four Ukrainian territories. The borders are still unclear. Meanwhile, dissatisfaction is growing among the people of Russia.

People in a boardroom

Unanimous: The Russian upper house approved Putin’s land acquisition on Tuesday Photo: Russian Federation Council/Reuters

MOSCOW taz | Moscow is working quickly and stubbornly on the annexation Ukrainian territories. On Monday, the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, voted in favor of changes to the constitution – albeit without a dissenting vote – the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, followed on Tuesday, also without a dissenting vote. Russia now calls the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Cherson and Zaporizhia “forever” Russian.

The signatures under the four “ratification treaties”, one for each area, are set. There is a transition period until 2026 until the laws are fully implemented. However, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pretended to do with his signature last Friday, there is little to celebrate in the country. Putin’s dream of “historical justice” has failed in reality. Even if many in the country continue to deny this reality.

But the mood is changing. According to surveys by the state opinion research institute FOM, almost 70 percent of those questioned now describe the atmosphere as “disturbing”. This is twice as much as before the so-called partial mobilization, which the Russians perceive as “full mobilization”. Moscow’s “military special operation” has settled in every family in Russia.

The people who, in the past seven months, have often tried to avoid the subject of war by almost any means possible, hardly talk about anything else. “Should I send my son to a doctor first and then to a lawyer, or to a lawyer first and then to a doctor?” Some people ask. Others are looking for ways to get the husband, son or brother out of the country. “Or at least to some dacha somewhere in the vastness of Siberia,” they say.

Indirectly, the dissatisfaction of the people ultimately calls into question the authority of the Kremlin chief. Above all, because the regime’s hawks are becoming more and more rebellious, even if their criticism does not yet call Putin into question as commander-in-chief.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the uncouth ruler of Chechnya, accused a senior general of military failure. He called the “good-for-nothing” after the defeat at Lyman, where Russian forces officially withdrew to “more advantageous lines” late last week, by name: Alexander Lapin.

Lapin is one of the senior regional commanders whom Putin, unlike many other generals, has not fired since the invasion. In a way, he is regarded as Putin’s darling and is now openly addressed not only by Kadyrov. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, also joined Kadyrov. “All these idiots should go to the front barefoot with assault rifles,” says Prigozhin’s Telegram channel.

This should definitely be seen as a warning sign, because both Kadyrov and Prigozhin operate their own centers of power within the Russian army with their powerful and loyal private armies. In Ukraine, they have had success with their brutal methods and, in the scramble for power, they could try to gain advantages by violent means. For example, Kadyrov keeps clamoring for the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

A number of military bloggers also complain about the “indecisiveness” at the front. They denounce the lack of communication between the units, complain about the lack of lines of defense and the mobilization, which was called much too late and is still proceeding in a disorderly manner. The gap between the staged jubilation from the power apparatus and the problems with the answer to the question of how things should continue is widening.

Confused representation of history

Putin himself would rather lash out with his muddled account of history than respond to practical questions. No one can say where Russia’s western border runs. The Kremlin said that the borders of the “new subjects” should be determined on the “Day of Admission to the Russian Federation”, that is, formally, when Putin signs the “treats” after “ratification” by the Federation Council.

For Putin, however, the “day of admission” is last Friday, when he and the four “bosses” of the occupied areas sealed the “return home” in the Kremlin. In fact, however, Moscow does not control the border in the west. The distribution of power within the annexed areas has also not yet been clearly regulated.

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