Vladimir Putin’s crushing re-“election”, and resistance in imperialist Russia

Re-elected by an overwhelming majority, Vladimir Putin has emerged with renewed strength in Russia from a presidential “election” marked by rigging, massive propaganda and repression of opponents. The reinforcement of Putin’s power, as well as his continued threats, are a cause for concern in the European press.

Published on 21 March 2024 at 09:31

87.85 percent: a "crushing" victory claimed by Vladimir Putin the day after Russia’s latest presidential “election”. This was "despite protests around the world", as the Russian newspaper in exile Novaya Gazeta Europe reports. Running for re-election without a credible challenger - his main opponent Alexei Navalny having died a few weeks earlier - Putin will serve a fifth six-year term, with an official vote count even higher than the previous one in 2018. If he completes his term in 2030, "Putin will surpass Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in terms of longevity at the head of the Kremlin", continues Novaya Gazeta Europe. 87 people were arrested over the three day election period, in 22 cities across Russia, according to the human rights group OVD-Info.

For Putin, Russians and Ukrainians are part of the same nation, explains Ukrainian historian and activist Hanna Perekhoda in Posle ("After", in Russian), an independent media outlet created after the invasion of Ukraine. Perekhoda deciphers the narrative underlying the Russian leader's public speeches: for Putin, "the distinct national identity of Ukrainians is an artificial construct created by Western enemies (Poles, Austrians, Germans), and their agents (Bolsheviks). Without Russia's protection, Ukrainians inevitably succumb to the hostile forces of the West who 'implant pseudo-values in their minds', make them forget their Russian nature, and use them as 'battering rams' against Russia". It follows that "if Ukraine is independent, Russia cannot become a great power, and its sovereignty is therefore threatened, because - according to this vision of the world - only great powers enjoy true political sovereignty". Russia therefore needs to take control of Ukraine and "turn Ukrainians into Russians."

Thousands of people took part in the "Noon against Putin" demonstrations, which invited people to gather at polling stations to vote around midday, in Russia and abroad, as a sign of protest. Denis Leven reports on the mass demonstration in Politico, acknowledging that it is difficult to assess the exact scale of the mobilisation. However, one thing is certain, according to independent Russian journalist Ada Blakewell in Novaya Gazeta: against all odds, dissent is flourishing in the country. Her article has been republished on Voxeurop, and I strongly encourage you to read it.

In The Guardian, British historian and journalist Timothy Garton Ash, a keen observer of Central and Eastern Europe, points out that "these past few weeks have shown us that there’s still an Other Russia, as there was an Other Germany even at the height of Adolf Hitler’s power in the Third Reich". While Garton Ash believes it is impossible to assess the level of support the “Other Russia” actually enjoys in the country, he points out that "an estimated 20,000 protesters have been arrested since the beginning of the full-scale invasion just over two years ago". According to the British historian, we are at the beginning of a new period in European history. "What we do this year will have consequences for decades to come. Enabling Ukraine to win this war is not just the only way to secure a democratic, peaceful future for Ukraine itself," he explains. "It’s also the best thing we can do to improve the long-term chances for a better Russia."

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One might wonder whether ordinary Russians still support the war in Ukraine. "Gauging opinion is very complicated in times of war and significant repression. Any public opinion survey is going to create a feeling of danger for the person being surveyed", writes Anna Colin Lebedev, a lecturer in political science at Paris-Nanterre University, in an interview with the French business monthly Alternatives Economiques. "A large number of Russians do not consider themselves having an informed opinion on the war. But enthusiasm is very limited: the proportion of the population that actively supports the war and wants to see it extended has never exceeded 20 percent, and is constantly falling. On the other hand, war fatigue and the desire to return to normal life are very high."

For Sergei Medvedev, historian and specialist in post-Soviet society, Vladimir Putin is "undeniably the heir to Stalinist fascism", as he explains in an interview with the French daily Le Monde. "For substantial change to occur, three conditions must be met", Medvedev argues: "Putin must die or leave power, the army must suffer a defeat in Ukraine, and export revenues must fall. All of which are far from being a reality."

More picks

Giorgia Meloni’s plan to run Europe — and befriend Donald Trump

Nicholas Vinocur, Hannah Roberts, Jacopo Barigazzi | Politico | 15 March | EN

When she first assumed power, "western elites harboured doubts about a prime minister who’d once professed admiration for fascism". Now the question is whether Giorgia Meloni's influence in Europe is in fact growing. Nicholas Vinocur, Hannah Roberts and Jacopo Barigazzi decode the Italian Prime Minister's discreet but highly effective strategy. The authors argue that Meloni has achieved a real "tour de force", particularly on Ukraine: "She has convinced Western leaders of her steadfast support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia while leveraging her respectability into a position of leadership among Europe’s right-wing forces". She also exerts "a quiet but powerful influence over top EU politicians like European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen."

A decent country

Paula Ferreira | Jornal de Notícias | 12 March | PT

This is "one of the most unstable scenarios for our democracy in the 50 years since 25 April" (1974, the date of the Carnation Revolution), argues Paula Ferreira in Jornal de Noticias. Her analysis follows the results of Portugal's early parliamentary elections on 10 March, which saw André Ventura's far-right Chega party come third. "But not all of the more than 1,100,000 Portuguese who voted for André Ventura - quadrupling his party’s seats from 12 to 48 - are nostalgic for fascist dictatorship, in favour of chemical castration for rapists, or dismissive of women, homosexuals, Roma and immigrants. [...] I refuse to believe that one Portuguese person in five thinks like that. Many of them, I believe, have lost hope. Now we have to win them back if we are to make Portugal a decent country," says the deputy editor of the conservative daily.

In partnership with Display Europe, cofunded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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