On Wednesday, Putin’s slanderous speech compared opponents to “bhushas” who seek to weaken the country at the behest of the West – crude remarks that create a platform for widespread repression against those who dare to speak out against the war in Ukraine.
This reflects his frustration with the slow pace of the Russian invasion, which has been stranded on the outskirts of Kiev and around other cities in northeastern Ukraine. Russian forces have made relatively large gains in the south, but they have not been able to capture the strategic port of Mariupol in the Azov Sea, and their advance on the Black Sea coast has stalled.
Russia, meanwhile, has been hit hard by destructive Western sanctions that have cut government access to an estimated half of the country’s hard currency reserves and left the economy crippled in many areas.
With his hopes for an explosion in Ukraine shattered and economic costs rising sharply, Putin issued a toxic diatribe to opponents of his path.
“The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from filth and traitors and spit on them like ghosts flying by mistake in their mouths – spitting on their sidewalks,” Putin said during a Wednesday call with top officials. “I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, solidarity and readiness to face any challenge.”
Rough language carries a sinister parallel for those familiar with Soviet history. During Stalin’s Great Terror Show trial, authorities denounced the so-called “enemies of the people” as “reptiles” or “mad dogs”.
In a fit of rage, Putin complained that the Russians who opposed the war in Ukraine were a “fifth column” vaguely serving Western interests and ready to “sell their mother.”
“I do not condemn those who have villas in Miami or the French Riviera, who cannot live without foie gras, oysters or so-called sex freedom,” Putin said. “It’s not a problem. The problem is that many of these people are mentally there (in the West) and here with our people, not with Russia. . “
As he spoke, the Russian State Investigative Committee announced the launch of a criminal investigation against several people accused of spreading “false information” about military action in Ukraine.
The first person to be identified by the country’s top investigative agency was Veronica Belotserkovskaya, a popular blogger and socialite who wrote books on French and Italian cuisine and shared her time between Russia and southern France. He has emerged as a target for Putin’s misrepresentation of the cosmopolitan Russians, who like fancy food and seemingly disagree with the masses.
The committee of inquiry said it could issue an international arrest warrant for Belteroskovsky, accusing his Instagram posts of “disrespecting” state authorities and the military.
Belotserkovskaya responded by writing: “I have been officially declared a decent person!”
One week after Putin launched the attack, he is being investigated under the Kremlin-controlled parliament’s March 4 fast-tracking new law. It envisages up to 15 years in prison for posting “fake” information about the military, which is different from the official description.
Putin and his lieutenants described the war in Ukraine as a “special military operation” aimed at rooting out alleged “neo-Nazi nationalists” and eliminating a potential military threat against Russia – goals that most of the world have dismissed as fake.
Russian officials have blamed the slow pace of the attack on their desire to protect civilians, and even the military has carried out indiscriminate barrages and airstrikes in Mariupol, Kiev, Kharkiv and other Ukrainian cities, killing scores of civilians.
In stark contrast to the official announcement with the move in Ukraine, the authorities acted swiftly to control the message, cut off access to foreign media websites, including Facebook and Instagram, and outlawed their parent organization, Meta, as an “extremist” organization.
The tight lid of information has helped support the Kremlin’s wider population, who rely on state-controlled television as their main source of news. State TV shows carry increasingly offensive messages against opponents of the war.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described Putin as “a sign that the door to his apartment was spray-painted with the letter” Z “by war critics – a sign widely used by the state to identify Russian military vehicles in Ukraine. The passionate move of the supporters.
Russian cities were flooded with “Z” posters in support of the war, and vehicles were equipped with it. School children are shown standing in groups in the shape of letters or wearing clothes marked “Z”.
Despite stringent new laws, strict control over information and increasingly aggressive propaganda, thousands of Russians turned out in anti-war protests across the country to face immediate arrest.
A powerful symbol of disobedience, an employee of state television interrupted a live news program, holding a hand-made sign in protest of the war. Marina Ovsanikova was fined the equivalent of $ 270, but she could still face a criminal investigation that could land her in jail.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin’s worst political opponent, has been jailed for two and a half years in prison and is currently facing trial that could see him sentenced to 13 years in prison.
In a speech at his trial on Tuesday, Navalny warned that the war would destroy Russia, saying “everyone has a responsibility to oppose the war now.”