February 4, 2023

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Russia, Ukraine War |  Putin loses support in a secret Russian poll

Russia, Ukraine War | Putin loses support in a secret Russian poll

This was written by an independent Russian newspaper Medusaheadquartered in Latvia.

Meduza claims to have had access to a secret poll conducted by the Kremlin’s Federal Guard Service (FSO), which was said to have been leaked by anonymous sources.

The survey was commissioned by Russia’s political elite for “internal use only”. A July poll at the time found that 57 percent of respondents still wanted Russian forces to stay in Ukraine, he writes. The telegraph.

At the time, support for peace negotiations stood at 32%.

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Professor Gardar Ostbo of the Department of Defense Studies says one should not overinterpret the results of Russian polls dealing with sensitive and politicized issues.

– It is always important how the questions are worded in opinion polls, but here it is especially important, Ostbo tells Netavisen.

– The Russian sociologist and philosopher Gregory Godin emphasized that there are many common people who are politically apathetic and do not really want to take an active stand on war. The situation is that they can’t do anything about such major political issues anyway, and decisions are made without them having a chance to influence them. Therefore, many of them will provide answers that are deemed uncontroversial, he says.

– If you ask if you support President Putin’s decision to launch new attacks in Ukraine, you will get a majority. If you ask if you support Putin’s final decision to go to peace negotiations, you’ll get a majority, too, says Ostbo.

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– There is no reason for optimism

The internal and graded poll shows that support for war among the population has decreased from 57 to 25 percent, while support for entering peace negotiations has increased from about 30 to 55 percent. Østbø believes that one should not attach too much importance to results.

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– These are good results in our eyes, but there is no need for optimism. Russia has already annexed four Ukrainian regions that it did not have control over before the annexation, and which it now has less control over. They still stand deep in Ukrainian territory. He says peace negotiations on this basis are unimaginable.

Ostbo refers to the Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk that were annexed on 30 September. Crimea was annexed in 2014.

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Russian Polling Institute Levada Center It is reported that support among the Russian population for peace negotiations has gradually increased since the summer: 44 percent in August, 48 percent in September and 57 percent in October.

Two sources in Putin’s inner circle know Medusa That the Kremlin plans to limit the population’s access to opinion polls from the Russian state pollster VTsIOM.

You can get all kinds of results these days. It’s best not to, a source tells The Independent.

A political adviser linked to the Kremlin tells the same newspaper that it is “better not to reveal the dynamics” of Russians’ changing attitudes toward the war.

– Can these results of the analogy be used internally against Putin, Ostbo?

– yes. Both those who were against the war in the first place and those who wanted to push harder. Everyone is unhappy. He says Putin is in trouble.

– At the same time, Ukraine has become a very important issue of an existential nature for Putin. Many of those who supported his decision to go to war will now take even more brutal measures. And those who want peace in the first place do not form any decisive opposition in this regard. It is hard to imagine that anyone in the political elite would change their mind. If it were to measure pension reform or some other social policy issue, one would think he would adjust a bit. But he says showing vulnerability is not something this system wants to do.

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Two main wings of the political elite

Ostbo says there are two main wings in the Russian political elite in terms of support and opposition to Putin’s war.

The so-called technocrats who keep the wheels of business and the state machine running may not be happy about the invasion in the first place. He says the consequences of the war are making their jobs and lives more difficult.

– Now no one has come out and said this openly, but it is not difficult to imagine that Prime Minister Mikhail Mesjestin, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and the head of the Russian Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina are on this side, says Ostbo.

– On the other hand, you have militants like the notorious Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, former liberal Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council, Head of the FSB Alexander Bortnikov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff (Chief of Defense) Valery Gerasimov, – says prof.

You don’t want to fall into the Soviet trap

– Why does the political department order these opinion polls for internal use?

It is always in the interest of the authorities to know what the population really thinks and what stirs the people’s hearts. The mainstream media is controlled by the state, and the Internet is increasingly controlled. Since Russia has become so authoritarian, and there are so few opportunities for freedom of expression in the public space, one certainly does not want to fall into the Soviet trap where one does not know how things really are and what the population thinks, says Ostbo.

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Ostbo notes that it is important for the political elite that classified polls not be made public or leaked to the population.

– You don’t want most people to find out that the neighbor is unhappy either. In a hypothetical situation where everyone knows 90 percent are unhappy with the president, there would be room for protests and riots, he says.

It could be a turning point

The poll result may indicate a turning point in Russian public opinion after Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 reservists in September.

Mobilization was carried out in a chaotic manner, and there were several examples of sick, inexperienced, or excessively old men being arbitrarily admitted into military service. In addition, the reserve forces received minimal training and poor equipment.

Mobilization also led to mass flight among Russian men of service age, who did not want to become cannon fodder at the front.

Some have estimated that there is a minority of 20 percent of the population who are strong supporters of the war, an even smaller number of loyal opponents of the war, while the silent majority is apathetic. Then you can get all possible results from the surveys, says Østbø.

Mobilization is the largest external factor affecting public opinion. Until then, for many, the war was something that happened on television. The impression the residents got was that of the state-controlled TV channels. But now, he says, reality is starting to press.