Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech on the evening of June 26th that sparked a huge response on his country’s internet – but not in a good way.
In yet another example of the Kremlin chief’s current inability to judge what’s best for him and his country, his five-minute-thirty-second national TV address tried to put a positive spin on the weekend mutiny. He attempted to characterize the lethal exchanges of fire that occurred between the Wagner mercenary group and those loyal to Moscow as positive proof of Russian national solidarity and, implicitly, his own continued sure-handed leadership of the country.
Some Russian chat rooms were, following the speech, less than fully impressed by the former KGB agent’s shoulder-to-shoulder patriotic rhetoric.
Putin’s declaration that his response to the Wagner invasion and his government decisions were “momentous for Russia” came under particularly hostile fire, with some posters lampooning Kremlin reticence to take direct action against thousands of armed mercenaries heading directly towards Moscow, in gross violation of Russian law.
"What was that?" "That's it?" "Come on," some posters ridiculed the Russian leader.
Russian state propaganda following the speech stuck closely to Putin’s official line praising the supposedly unbreakable strength of the Russian people and society. Propagandist Margarita Simonyan, head of the Kremlin-funded RT news and television platform, and a longtime advocate of strong-arm, dictatorial rule by Putin, commented admiringly in her Telegram Channel: "The Boss!".
Survey results published by the pro-Kremlin Russian Institute of Political Studies (RIPS) insisted that Putin's approval rating had risen to 90% following the Wagner mutiny. RIPS boss Sergei Markov, a Moscow propagandist who has long called for total war against Ukraine to eliminate both the state and Ukrainians as an independent people, in public comments claimed the poll numbers proved “Russians are prepared to pray for Putin.”
But Russian war correspondents, frequently open in their criticism of the Russian Defense Ministry’s prosecution of the war, speculated on their Telegram channels that there was either some devious, hidden logic behind Putin's speech, or, the Kremlin simply made a mess of its messaging.
"I just can't believe that's it. There are only two possibilities here:
1. Comrade (Dmitriy) Peskov [Putin’s official spokesman] got it all mixed up by nightfall. It happens. Things can happen to older men too.
2. A more real variant - personnel decisions that have been discussed for almost a day have been taken but have yet to be made public. We will soon find out..." wrote Kotenok Z.
Russian ultra-patriot Igor Strelkov battered Putin’s claim he was leading the country capably, and repeated his longstanding prediction that the Kremlin’s weak control of events will bring Russia, inevitably, to turmoil and ruin.
"I haven't seen anything more pathetic performed by someone who remotely resembles the president in a long time—well done, everybody. Everyone did a great job; it's time to award orders and finally promote (Russian Defense Minister Sergei) Shoigu to Marshal. The turmoil continues."
Ordinary Russians openly scoffed at Putin's "momentous" speech, pointing to the contradiction between a leader insisting the country is fully under control and that Russian society is unified like never before, and whole at the same time unable to prevent the armed takeover of major cities by mercenaries. One wrote: "He has metastasized his brain. Everyone has seen the consolidation of society in Rostov)))))."
Another poster, apparently angry with falling living standards in the country, deployed decades-old Soviet rhetoric and personality cult buzz words, alongside dripping sarcasm.
“If it wasn't for Putin, we would still be on our knees! And we wouldn't be eating and freezing like the West! Let him live forever! ... If there is no Putin, there is no Russia! And that's scary! Why is human life so short? If only he can last 30 more years!”
Like social media everywhere, some parts of the Russian internet found themselves unable to resist, fully, personal attacks.
“Oh, what a clown that bald one is”
But name-calling and derision was nonetheless a relatively equal opportunity provider, with other posters making fun of Prigozhin, instead of Putin.
“Prigozhin is a clown...he made it to Moscow 😂😂😂😂 they let him get to Moscow, gave him a chance to come to his senses as they didn't want the blood of soldiers, our heroes...they just couldn't let him go any further...as he realized, he turned around...”
Some, more patriotic Russians pointed out that a downside that no one seems to be talking about in Russia is that the whole Wagner mess, no matter who’s responsible for the mutiny and how it will ultimately shake out, has already removed one of the few truly battle-worthy combat units from the war in Ukraine.
“In short, Shoigu has won. The Wagner PMC is gone. At least in our country. Rejoice! Russia has lost its best unit, to the delight of its enemies! Outstanding, right?”
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