President Donald Trump is not the only leader seeing his approval numbers plummet due to the coronavirus pandemic and the attendant economic carnage.
According to a report from the Daily Beast, Russian President Vladimir Putin is on shaky ground in his own country due to the health crisis and an economic collapse.
Noting Putin's plummeting approval, the report quotes Russian pollster Denis Volkov stating, "Putin’s approval rating began to decline even before the coronavirus crisis, with oil prices collapsing and the economy deteriorating—and I don’t see what can stop this perfect storm this year.”
As the Beast's Anna Nemtsova reports, "Putin’s biggest challenge is poverty, that old Russian disease. During his best years, when oil prices were astronomical and revenues were very high indeed, the Russian president was able to provide people with money—and with pride. He was building the armed forces, sending them abroad, overtly or covertly, to Ukraine, Syria and Africa, and developing very expensive new weapons systems. Putin seemed able to provide, as economists say, both guns and butter."
Pointing out that millions of Russians have slipped below the poverty line as the pandemic ravages the country, Putin's popularity has also dropped precipitously.
"More than 16 percent of the population in Smolensk lives in poverty, trying to survive on less than $5.50 a day. The coronavirus crisis made their situation even more desperate. The Kremlin’s head of the Accounting Chamber, Aleksey Kudrin, predicts that the number of unemployed in Russia as a whole will triple in the coming months," the report states.
"Never in my eight years of work in charity have I seen so many hungry and desperate people as during these months of coronavirus pandemic,” explained Nadezhda Petrusiva of Charity group Mercy.
More concerning to Putin and his hold on the country is the rising tide of coronavirus deaths.
"In April, Moscow’s COVID-19 death toll was 695 people, while the total number of deaths recorded that month was 1,800 higher than usual," the report states. "Last Monday Russia saw a huge spike in infections—it is now second only to the United States in total numbers. And Russian authorities seem to have stumbled in protecting medical workers. Nobody, not even the most skillful propagandists, would be able to hide that fact. Due to sloppiness and disorganization 190 Russian doctors and medics have died from COVID-19, according to a list called “We Remember” compiled by fellow physicians. "
This, as Nemtsova reports, has emboldened opponents of the Russian president.
"Putin’s opponents on both left and right are using this shaky pandemic moment to try to rock Putin’s world. 'The power is in agony, their authority is running through their fingers,' says a young communist parliament member, Nikolai Bondarenko," the report states before posing the question: "Might the Kremlin put more pressure on the independent press and the opposition to shut down critics and help Putin’s approval rating?"
No, writes the Beast correspondent.
“Authorities cannot afford to tighten more bolts now, people already are gritting their teeth,” explained Transparency International’s Russian office founder Yelena Panfilova,“They might whip a few ministers for a show and maybe put a bit more pressure on the media—they need to look nice for the public.”
Nemtsova concluded, "That’s getting harder and harder for the Putin regime to do."
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