Ukraine: Russian elites neutralized by Vladimir Putin

In the hushed world of the Russian elite, doors are only opened with extreme discretion. Since the start of the“special military operation” in Ukraine, the time has indeed come for all-out repression of critical voices, including at the top. Under these conditions, for the big bosses and decision-makers, it is better not to speak.

A silence that fuels speculation about their support or rejection of the campaignUkraine, their ability to influence the Kremlin or their supposed intentions to precipitate regime change. It is only on the condition of strict anonymity that The cross was able to gather some confidences from this often critical establishment, but helpless in the face of Vladimir Putin’s policy.

Let us listen, for example, to this Russian entrepreneur, once known as one of the ten most influential businessmen in the country, who today denounces “huge mistake” what constitutes this conflict. A “mistake” all the more serious as the Kremlin has opted for the strategy of long-term conflict, he fears. Anger disputes him at home with concern over the way the Kremlin has locked down “in its own logic”, cut from external supports. All the people around Putin have become servantshe complains. Only a small percentage of them have kept their independence of mind. From time to time, they have the president’s ear. »

“There will be no regime change”

This was his case, in the first years of the reign of Vladimir Poutinestarted in 1999, and until recently. Before the new stage reached in September, with the military mobilization, I could still play a role, have an economic and social influence, propose ideas with a view to a compromise and a peace agreement. We tried. But it’s over and it’s too late, a new scenario has begun. Neither I nor the rest of the business elite have a hand in the final decision, he laments. Nobody has any influence on Putin anymore. Any new gear will now be his decision, and his alone. »

Between weariness and frustration, many of the Russian elite question the Kremlin. The withdrawal from Khersonlast month, revealed all the mistakes of the military command, but also the very bad political leadership at the top, notes a fine connoisseur of certain circles of power, who feels the unease rising. Putin’s non-attendance at the G20 in Bali in mid-November highlighted his international isolation, including among ex-Soviet republics believed to be loyal to Moscow. »

However, he warns Europeans not to take their wishes for realities, anticipating a possible change at the head of the Kremlin in the short term. Questioning does not mean questioning. Many want Putin’s end, but no one is willing to step in to bring it about. »

Exile and marginalization

In fact, the liberal political elite, most able to encourage change, is more marginalized than ever in Russia. Opposed in private to the offensive and its aftermath, but very discreet in public, the former finance minister Alexeï Koudrin has just returned to the front of the stage. But it’s to accept new functions at Yandex, the Russian Google, that it must now help to juggle between freedom on the Internet and takeover by the State.

The few other big names among the still active liberals have similarly accepted key roles in Vladimir Putin’s system. This is the case of German Gref, CEO of Sberbank, the country’s main bank, who barely allows himself some disguised warnings about the economic misdeeds of the military operation. As for Sergei Kirienko, once a liberal star of the 1990s, he is wallowing in silence, too busy in his duties at the head of the political administration of the Kremlin, even orchestrating the recent annexation to Russia of the Ukrainian territories of Donbass.

Moreover, most of the once influential liberals and entrepreneurs fundamentally opposed to the current course of events in Moscow have simply left the country. And not only because of the “partial mobilization” announced on September 21. One only has to look at the quantity of Russian luxury cars in the parking lot at Helsinki airport to understand that many of the very wealthy have preferred to take to the open sea.

Hotels from Dubai filled with businessmen from Moscow, who left to settle with their families, and the paradisiacal beaches of Venezuela have become the destinations of choice for an elite in need of direct flights for their holidays since Western countries barred their airspace to Russian airlines.

“They hunker down while waiting for it to pass”

These elites recognize that the February 24 offensive is leading Russia to an impasse. In a half-word, they say what many middle-class Russians are whispering: they do not understand what the Kremlin’s objective is in continuing the conflict in Ukraine, and, beyond, against the West. But most continue to do their business, otherwise, of course, because of Western sanctions.

It’s the soft stomach, they arch their backs while waiting for it to passobserves a European who has been immersed in Moscow business and political circles for thirty years. This has nothing to do with the atmosphere of the late 1990s: at the end of the Yeltsin era, the system was shaken, the elites were no longer there, and appetites were sharpening. Everyone was busy behind the scenes in Moscow. Today, on the contrary, they are quiet and expectant, in Dubai or Venezuela ! »

Result: dumbness, reign of silence and no apparent flaw in the regime. We cannot say that these political and economic figures support the regime,” says a former senior Kremlin official who has maintained influential contacts at the top. This source, however, notes a counterproductive effect of Western sanctions, which would have aggravated the dependence of the elites on power: “Punished in the West, they found themselves stuck in Russia where, to survive, they must support the system. If they start criticizing it, they risk losing what they have kept in Russia after having already lost what they had abroad. »


Ukraine hits Russia with its drones

A new attack by a Ukrainian drone against an airbase in southern Russia, already hit earlier this month, has three dead Monday, December 26.

Russian air defense shot down the Ukrainian drone as he approached, in the night, the base of Engels in the Saratov region, more than 600 km from Ukraine.

Russia accused Kyiv of carrying out several drone attacks against its territory and against annexed Crimea, including an attack “massive” at the end of October, against the Black Sea Fleet, in the port of Sevastopol.

Ukraine: Russian elites neutralized by Vladimir Putin