It is a war. Half a year later, opponents and supporters of the Kremlinthey have lost fear of the taboo word, of the expression that was forbidden to utter 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 Vladimir Putin among the other parties loyal to the Russian 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 ultranationalists, 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 have different roots. 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 so-called laws against the discrediting of the Armed Forces prohibit. For example, the independent newspaper whose director, Dmitri Muratov, won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize — was forced to delete the news that said what was happening in Ukraine was a war.
Faced with the commotion generated by such a forceful message, the Communist Party retracted, hours later, its leader’s statements his press secretary, Alexander Yushchenko, clarified in a later interview where he urged “severely punish those who spread provocations like this information” . Much of the Russian press had echoed the words of the communist leader.
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 driver of the demonstrations in the capital, the leader of the communists in Moscow, Valeri Rashki, was removed 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 the proper 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.
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 the circles of power by the withdrawal of the territories recovered by kyiv. The Chechen president denounced that cities have been “given away”, and some responsible for the propaganda urged to “punish or execute” the commanders responsible for the disaster.
The other part of the criticism, which in recent hours has managed to bring together 65 councilors from large Russian cities to call for Putin’s removal, comes from the political opposition. Banned in the national Parliament, this sector has managed to continue doing politics since the meetings of the municipal councils.
His last big hit from him began on September 7in the SanPetersburg district of Smolninskoye, when a group of councilors addressed the Duma to consider removing Putin for his offensive on Ukraine. This Tuesday the trial was held against the first of the five, Dmitri Paliuga, under the accusation of having discredited the president. The court has sentenced him to pay a fine of 47,000 rubles, about 780 euros, which is – at least for now – a warning rather than a punitive measure.
The initiative of this group of councilors has been supported by more political colleagues from all over Russia, from the capital to the far east of the country. “We currently have 54 signatures. It is a relative success. I remember that at the beginning of the offensive we collected 200 signatures against it. The number has been reduced, people are afraid, but it is a good number, ”Ksenia Torstrem, a politician from another district of Saint Petersburg and promoter of the gesture of support, recounted by telephone. A few hours later, the adhesions had risen to 65.