Vladimir Putin has hardly ever responded to rumors or speculation since the war began. Now the Kremlin boss seems to be forced to change course. According to experts, Putin is about to lose some of his control.
Vladimir Putin’s tactics were clear: he tried to talk as little as possible about his “military special operation” in Ukraine since the beginning of the war. He wanted to keep the war out of Russian life. But now Putin is apparently being forced to change his strategy. The experts at the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) see a reason for this: Putin is slowly but surely losing control of communications.
An indication of the change in strategy: Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov felt compelled to make a statement on Tuesday. Peskov said the Russians should listen to official communications from the Defense Ministry and the President. Citizens should ignore the “provocative messages” on social media like Telegram, Peskov said.
The Kremlin is reacting to the rumors that are getting louder and louder that there may soon be a second major mobilization. With his unusual statements, Peskov tries to discredit the growing influence of the Russian opposition. On the other hand, he is also targeting a group that is actually on Putin’s side: those military bloggers and war advocates who use Telegram to influence Russian opinion.
In these Telegram groups, indicators for a second mobilization have been collected for weeks. And for a long time now there have been continuous reports of new recruits complaining about the poor training, the chaotic conditions at the front and the poor supply of food and weapons to the army. The “cannon fodder” has long since become part of communication.
The “ISW” researchers suspect that Putin wants to regain sovereignty over communications. Most recently, Putin also passed a law that banned rallies in Russian government buildings, universities, schools, hospitals, train stations and churches. Because everywhere in Russia there are always smaller and larger uprisings by newly mobilized people or their relatives. Putin urgently wants to prevent this before the mood in the country changes and fears of a second mobilization lead to a major mobilization against him.
The pro-war mood in Russia has long since evaporated anyway. Only a quarter of Russians support the President on this issue. If he can’t regain control of communications, that number could shrink even further.