Demonstrations in the streets, risky ‘No to war’ messages in a censored press and even leaving the country. Thousands of Russians have expressed their disagreement with the Krelim over the war in Ukraine since the conflict began.
Dissidence has now also reached the Executive of President Vladimir Putin. A few days after a month since the invasion began, Anatoli Chubais, representative of the Russian president in matters of sustainable development, resigned from his position due to disagreement in the conflict and left the country without giving hardly any details.
“The Russian government is very opaque about this type of movement, it does not want to show weakness abroad,” Carmen Claudín, a CIDOB researcher specializing in Russian and Soviet history, assures RTVE.es. Regarding the figure of Chubais, the expert attributes the possible causes of his resignation to his differences with the government and his liberal past, already shown in the government of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. “What caught Chubais’ attention was that he got so close to the Putin regime, but now it seems that he has backed down. His resignation will not have a radical effect on the course of the war, but it’s hard to foresee at this point whether or not it could encourage others to follow in his footsteps,” he explains. Among the defections within Putin’s personal circle is also that of Arkadi Dvorkovich, a former deputy prime minister, who has been described as a “traitor”.
The rise of critical voices within the country, as well as the sanctions in the West, have not, however, changed the plans of Putin, who keeps his Russian troops in Ukraine. Although he now assures that he will focus on the Donbas, Russia even asked a few days ago for the surrender of cities like Mariupol, besieged for weeks and with serious food and medicine supply problems.
Voices critical of the government are on the rise
According to the expert, although this it is the first resignation of a high position that is made public, there have also been dropouts in other areas. “Political analysts, journalists, people in the world’s intellectual elite, and even police and security forces have also left their posts or lowered their public profile in the face of the conflict,” he notes. “Many have realized that they have been lied to about an operation, supposedly against fascists in pro-Russian areas. Now they see that there is a war and that it is the Ukrainian population, which is considered a sister, that suffers the consequences, ”she affirms.
To the resignation of Chubais, these days have been added the unknown about the whereabouts of other members of the Russian government, the Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigú, and the Chief of the Russian General Staff, with whom the Pentagon has tried to contact without success. The Kremlin, which published a video on Saturday in which it is seen presiding over an army meeting and discussing the supply of weapons, assures that it is because “it has many concerns”, while a Russian media has attributed it to “problems of Health”.
also grow rumors about the possibility of a coup or dismissal of Putin by the Russian Federal Security Service, according to the newspaper ‘The Times’. “If something like this happens, it would be a ‘palace coup,’ that is, the regime’s own people understand that their stability is being played with and they opt for this measure, which could change the international political scene,” he says. Carmen Claudin.
The opposition outside Parliament and in the Army
As for the rest of the parties in Russia, the expert assures that they are part of the system and have voted in favor of many of Putin’s policies in recent years. “There is no real opposition, that is outside Parliament.” In this sense, une of the best-known figures is Alexei Navalni, who has recently been sentenced by the Russian Justice to another nine years in prison after being found guilty of fraud and contempt. The sentence was handed down at the prison where he is currently serving time for an old criminal case. The United States denounced Navalni’s new sentence, aiming according to them to “silence” dissenting voices in Russia and “hide” the war in Ukraine.
In the Russian Army there have also been some dissidences. At the beginning of the war, a video was broadcast in which several soldiers left the battle, assuring that they felt “cheated” and victims of the conflict. As well a hundred sailors would have mutinied to disobey orders to land and fight in the Odessa region, in southern Ukraine, as reported by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the main agency of the Ukrainian secret services, a few weeks ago, which pointed out that Russia has established “platoons of firing squad” to finish off deserters.
Information, another front of the war for Russia
Putin has also targeted the press and social networks. After the start of the war, a law was passed that those who offer information that Moscow may consider to be “false information” can be punished with up to 15 years in prison. In addition, two independent media have been blocked in Russia, Open Media Project or MHB Media, and the use of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram has been prohibited.
Despite Kremlin censorship, Marina Ovsiannikova, an employee of Channel 1 of Russian public television, interrupted a few weeks ago in one of the news with a banner that read: “No to the war. Let’s stop the war. Do not believe the propaganda. They are lying to you. Russians against the war”. The journalist will have to pay a fine of 254 euros and she remains under investigation. “Before there was no transparency for the media, but it has been increased to maintain control and even ‘Putinist’ supporters are threatening journalists. There is a ferocious repression in Russia at the moment”, adds Claudín.
Another of the events that have shocked the press has been the death of the journalist Oksana Baulina, highly critical of the Russian government and a producer for Navalni’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. Baulina would have died during an attack in kyiv, although some media suggest that her death would not have been caused by the bombing, but by the destruction of her car with a precise guidance system. This information could not be confirmed.
Putin’s warning to “traitors”
Citizens, for their part, have sought different ways to avoid these restrictions, such as the use of VPNs, whose searches increased by more than 2,000%. Furthermore, since the beginning of the invasion, about 15,000 people have been arrested in Russia for being against the actions of the Russian government, according to the civil rights group OVD-Info.
These actions, however, seem to be far from stopping. The Russian president referred days ago to those considered Russian “traitors” that the West allegedly wanted to use to destroy the country. “The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors, and just spit them out like a mosquito that accidentally flew into their mouths,” the president said.