It is a war. Half a year later, opponents and supporters of the Kremlin have lost their fear of the taboo word, of the expression that was forbidden to pronounce under penalty of fine or jail when talking about Ukraine. “It is a war, not a special operation. A general mobilization is needed”, warned the leader of the Communist Party, Guennadi Zyuganov, the great historical bastion of Putin among the other parties loyal to the president. The rapid advance of the Ukrainian troops in the last week has caused a stir in Russia, and the president’s entourage is trying to put out the fire unleashed in his ranks. Putin’s spokesman has even issued a warning: any criticism, whether it comes from opponents or ultra-nationalists, will be liable to be judged. At the moment, this week only the Saint Petersburg councilors who asked for the president’s dismissal will go through the court.
“The war and the special operation are fundamentally different. You can stop the special operation, but you can’t stop the war even if you want to. This has two results: victory or defeat. To win in Donbas is the question of our historical survival. Everyone in this country should realistically assess what is happening,” Zyuganov told parliament on Tuesday. The politician, 78 years old and at the head of the communists since 1993, pronounced a term that the laws against the discrediting of the armed forces prohibit. For example, the independent newspaper Novaya GazetaNobel Peace Prize winner in 2021, was forced to delete the news where he said that Ukraine was a war.
The head of the Communist Party was key just a year ago, in September 2021, by stopping part of his formation when it revolted by denouncing that Putin’s party, United Russia, had stolen the parliamentary elections through the new electronic voting. The promoter of the demonstrations in the capital, the leader of the communists in Moscow, Valeri Rashki, would be separated shortly after by a shady incident of illegal hunting and alcohol at the wheel.
Demands for a general call-up are now coming even from Putin’s own party. “Without full mobilization, the creation of military foundations, including in the economy, we will not achieve adequate results (in Ukraine). The fact is that society should be as united as possible and ready for victory,” Mikhail Sheremet, a member of the Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, also said on Tuesday.
The Kremlin has warned that it will not tolerate internal escalation. “Regarding critical viewpoints, as long as they remain within the current legal framework, this is pluralism, but that line is very, very thin. You have to be very careful here, ”the spokesman for the Russian president, Dmitri Peskov, responded on Tuesday, when asked about the wave of criticism raised in recent days.
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The spokesman denied that it is in the president’s plans to order a mobilization. “At the present time no, it is out of the question,” Peskov assured before the dust raised in power circles by the withdrawal. The Chechen president, Razmán Kadírov, denounced that cities have been “given away”, and some responsible for the propaganda urged to “punish or execute” the commanders responsible for the disaster.
Judgment of opponents
The other part of the criticism comes from the opposition to Putin. Banned in the national parliament, this sector has managed to continue doing politics since the meetings of the municipal councils. His last big blow began on September 7 in the St. Petersburg district of Smolninskoye, when a group of councilors addressed the Duma to consider removing Putin for his offensive on Ukraine. This Tuesday begins the trial against the first of the five under the accusation of having discredited the president.
At the moment they are subject to an administrative process that can lead to a fine. “I hope that the court will not convict us because we did not do anything illegal. We convened a legal session and addressed the deputies following the procedures provided for by federal law,” one of them, Nikita Yuferev, told this newspaper. After having tried unsuccessfully to contact the Russian presidency for months to request the cessation of the offensive, his partner Dmitri Paliuga proposed using a resource as legal as going to the State Duma. Six days after doing it, he will stand trial for it.
“We have not asked the federal deputies to do anything illegal, we only urge them to go to the constitution and start a process provided for in it,” Yuferev adds by phone. Councilor since 2019, he explains that the intention of his letter is that Putin’s public “who has not thought about the consequences of the offensive” is aware that it has led to the accession of more countries to NATO and the rearmament of Ukraine.
“I don’t think that calling for law enforcement means discrediting the armed forces, but we live in Russia and if they want to punish us, none of our arguments will be valid for them,” adds Yuferev, who quotes a Russian saying: “No one is safe from jail or poverty.” That is, no one is safe from evil.
The letter has coincided with the Ukrainian military advance. “It was casual, we did not expect any attack,” explains the politician. Before this initiative they had already undertaken others to demand peace. On the same February 24, the day the offensive began, they requested to call a demonstration and this was denied by the city council. Then, on March 2, his council held a public street meeting where he approved sending a petition to Putin to end his military campaign. “We did not receive a response from the presidential administration,” denounced the councilman.
For now, the opposition will remain confined to small gestures on the local scene. “Unfortunately, the current high-level Russian politics, the legislative power of the regions and the State Duma, is controlled by the authorities and does not allow anyone who can cause trouble to enter, much less talk about the mistakes of the special operation, That is why it is necessary to act from municipal politics, where it is less controlled”, denounces Yuferev.