The rating of confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin has broken through a long-term “bottom” amid opposition protests, which have become the most massive in Moscow since 2013, and have broken records in many cities over the past 30 years.
A public opinion poll conducted by the Foundation on January 22-24 showed that 53% of respondents trust Putin. As noted by Bloomberg, this is the lowest value ever since FOM has conducted research in its current format (since 2013).
Putin’s rating was at a 10-year low of 55%, but instead of the expected recovery by February it lost another 2 percentage points, political analyst Ilya Grashchenkov says.
Although the Ministry of Internal Affairs officially estimated the size of the Moscow rally at 4,000 people (according to Reuters – 40,000), and the presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that “not many people took to the streets,” the Kremlin is concerned about the scale of the protests and is looking for ways to leave people’s discontent , three sources close to the government told Bloomberg.
Navalny’s investigation launched a political process that “turned out to be a targeted blow to the presidential rating and personally to Putin’s reputation,” Grashchenkov said: “The drop in the rating of the authorities in the regions is especially acute. The North-West, the Far East and Siberia traditionally remain the leaders. In some regions, the lowest level of support for the president in history is recorded – at the level of 25-35% ”.
“Navalny launched an avalanche,” says economist Yevgeny Gontmakher. “People were already unhappy with falling incomes and the pandemic.” In 2020, according to Rosstat, Russians became poorer by another 3.5%, and by the end of 7 post-Crimean years, real incomes fell by 10.6% and returned to 2010 levels. The average salary in dollar terms has plummeted 27% since 2013, and its current value is the lowest since 2009 ($ 670).
Closed polls for the Kremlin have shown Navalny’s growing popularity, especially among young people, Bloomberg sources say. Against this background, cracks began to appear in the consensus of the elites: the line on tough suppression of protests is being actively promoted, but this will only increase discontent, and with it the popularity of Navalny, said one of the agency’s interlocutors.
At a fork in the road, the authorities opted for intimidation tactics. On Friday, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office announced plans to involve those detained at rallies under Article 212 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – riots. The term for it is from 8 to 15 years.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs received information that the organizers of the illegal actions are calling on the participants to behave aggressively in order to provoke clashes with law enforcement agencies and “discredit the authorities,” the official spokesman for the department, Irina Volk, told RIA Novosti.
“If the authorities continue to build up their repressive apparatus and harshly suppress any protest actions, the attitude towards it threatens to deteriorate even more,” Grashchenkov said.
The tough reaction stemmed from the fact that the coverage of the shares has become wider than before, said Natalya Zubarevich, head of regional studies at the Moscow Independent Institute for Social Policy.
And yet, in her opinion, the wave of protest will die out, just like the previous ones. “People will let off steam and get tired,” Zubarevich said.