On February 20, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Federation Council. The Russian media outlet Kommersant reported that Putin's address was watched by 5.9 percent of the residents in Moscow. This rating is the lowest since 2013. Last year's speech commanded a 42.5 percent viewing audience. According to Kommersant, the decline in the popularity of the President's speech is connected to the general crisis of confidence in politicians.
Liberal commentators criticized Putin's address and its focus on social justice. "Why couldn't most of these social measures be implemented within the past twenty years? … In terms of promises, it all looks like the speech of the President, who was first elected a month ago," scoffed the liberal Yabloko party's leader, Grigory Yavlinsky. In contrast, Pro-Kremlin commentators praised the speech while underlining that Putin sent a strong message to the elites telling them effectively to shape up or ship out.
Below is an overview of reactions to Putin's address to the Federation Council:
Putin watched on TV (Kommersant.ru)
Russian Journalist Orekh: Putin, Who Personally Mends The Plumbing And Lays The Asphalt, Cannot Put Normal Ministers In Place?
Russian journalist Anton Orekh wrote in the independent media outlet Echo of Moscow:
"They have already dinned into our heads the old tune about the good tsar and the bad boyars. The governors are con men and impotents; the ministers are fools; Medvedev is a cartoon character, and only one Vladimir Putin is good, wise and considerate, the one who is doing the best he can, who is attempting to plug all the gaps and patch all the holes in the hull.
"If anything has been accomplished then that is thanks to Putin. If something failed, [direct] all questions to the government. But where did the government come from. Did it grow on a tree? ... Putin who personally mends the plumbing and lays the asphalt cannot put normal ministers in place?
"We are not hearing the president's address for the first time to put it mildly. This man is ruling the country for 20 years – twenty years! This is five terms for an American president. That by any standard is a lot. And after twenty years of ruling Putin informs: 'and we must hit the ground running'. The president said the very same words in his 2007 address 12 years ago! During these years a boy born in 2000 managed to go and finish school and is being demobilized from the army, and all in all we get hitting the ground running...
"Mantras about pressure on businesses an innumerable criminal proceedings against entrepreneurs for whom is this news, and who should finally correct this by removing those investigators, prosecutors, judges who rubber stamp verdicts that are destroying not only business but the country itself.
"Russians should feel improvements in the standards of living, so says our president. But even in this phrase the [operative] word is 'should' feel. And if we do not feel it – at fault will be the government, the governors, the mayors, the peers and the sirs in classical fashion."
(Echo.msk.ru, February 20, 2019)
Liberal Politician Yavlinsky: Why Couldn't Most Of These Social Measures Be Implemented Within The Past Twenty Years?
The liberal Yabloko party's leader, Grigory Yavlinsky commented:
"1. [I] have not heard about ending the war and the country’s development strategy for the future. Only a set of individual, very limited social measures and a big arms race.
"2. [And there is] a question: Why couldn't most of these social measures be implemented within the past twenty years? Now, in the conditions of an arms race, even if they give something [to the people], they will take everything away [form the people] in the form of taxes and [rising] prices …
"In general, in terms of promises, it all looks like the speech of the President, who was first elected a month ago."
(Yabloko.ru, February 20, 2019)
Alexey Navalny: Hitting The Ground Running – A Fabulous Rhetorical Device For Someone Who Has Been In Power 20 Years
Opposition leader Alexey Navalny tweeted: "Putin's speech began again with 'we got to hit the ground running we will work'. This is a fabulous rhetorical device for a man who has been power for 20 years already. Formerly he did not work?"
(Twitter.com/navalny, February 20, 2019)
Russian Analyst Movchan: Last Year's Address Was A Brezhnevite Speech, This Year We Heard A 'Khruschev Speech'
Andrey Movchan, analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center's Economic Program, said:
"In various years we witnessed different speeches by Vladimir Putin – that threatened the world and demanded justice for all... The one (let us say last year's) was an openly Brezhnevite speech – stories about missiles and so on... and this year we heard an absolutely 'Khruschev speech' – chock full of numbers about 'planting corn' and how we were going to give each family 10 rubles [a month]…
"From the perspective of fulfilling the points in this speech, it is all pretty clear – we have extensive experience: they are never fulfilled. They are completely for show. Unfortunately this was the most boring of such performances of this type during all the years of Vladimir Putin's rule... My sense is that the Kremlin has a certain understanding that people have gotten poor and are dissatisfied with the pension reform. Meaning give a few money handouts...The feeling arises that the president looked at the budget and decided: well there is some money and the people are somewhat dissatisfied, so let us give a bit of money to the people. Yesterday they took it away, today we will give. In general, everything is as usual...
"Everybody has gotten tired of Ukraine. Apparently, even our head of state himself has gotten tired about Ukraine. Therefore there was hardly a word about Ukraine. About the US barely a word, and about the enemies – barely a word. Except that we are defending ourselves... Well of course we are defending ourselves. We could also defend ourselves 50 years ago, and we defend ourselves now."
(Sobesednik.ru, February 22, 2019)
Putin delivers the Address to the Federation CouncilAssembly in 2018. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Animation presented to the Federation Councilin 2018 (Source: YouTube)
Russian Analyst Mironov: This Year's Speech Was Actually Novel
Nikolai Mironov of the Center for Economic and Political Reforms was struck by the specifics of the speech: If to compare with the previous year, then that of the previous year was political-technological with great emphasis on video illustration in a clear pre-election setting. This one was actually novel, because generalities are featured frequently in the speech with a minimum of specifics, and now there was a maximum of specifics."
(Ria.ru, February 20, 2019)
Social Media Mock Russia's Government Official Attending Putin's Address
In the social media, Russian users mocked Federation Council members, State Duma deputies, and members of the Government, who were photographed half asleep, while Putin was delivering his speech on social matters.
Russian Analyst Khaldey: Putin Sent A Message To The Elites
Russian analyst Aleksandr Khaldey wrote in the anti-liberal media outlet Regnum.ru:
"Putin is a Leningrader born and bred and therefore he speaks politely but anybody who has worked with him for a long time is not deluded by such politeness."
He then added: "They understand that this was an iron fist in kid gloves. Correctly and calmly he sent a warning to the elites that anyone who will not change his approach to work will be mercilessly removed"
(Regnum.ru, February 21, 2019)
Evgeny Minchenko, political scientist and the president of Minchenko Consulting, stated: "Whoever is unwilling to work in a new fashion is on his way out. The narrative framework of Putin's new speech was to overtake the antiestablishment trend and seek justice... it was aimed at Putin's nuclear electorate - villages, small and medium cities, national republics.
(Facebook.com/minchenko, February 20, 2019)
Russian Analyst Mukhin: This Was A Direct Personnel Threat To Those Who Will Not Demonstrate Engagement And Integration
The general director of the Center of Political Information Alexey Mukhin believed that Putin's speech went beyond a roadmap. "In other words Putin has done the work for his administration, and it is left only with the task of slicing up this speech by the related agencies. I find it extremely important that he mentioned those who do not feel they have the strength to implement the May Decree [the May Decree outlines the main national development goals that the Russian government will implement in the next six years] and recommended that they do not go back to the job. This was a direct personnel threat to those who will not demonstrate engagement and integration in this process in the next month or two."
(Ria.ru, February 20, 2019)
The chairman of the Russian Federation's Union of Cinematographers, Nikita Mikhailkov praised Putin for a very specific speech. He then added that he hoped that "those to whom the speech was addressed know" that "they will pay for nonfulfillment with their positions."
(Riafan.ru, February 20, 2019)
Russian Commentator Driz: You Cannot Smear A Rocket On Bread And It Costs A Great Deal
Russian commentator Dmitry Driz one of the journalists attending the speech basically gave a trailer of his speech when he met representative of the mass media: "And what do we see? The authority itself understands that the people possible didn't understand something and consequently not everyone is sure about an improvement in living standards or that the new missiles are the greatest happiness... Everything is quite simple you cannot smear a rocket on bread and it costs a great deal. The country definitely has money, but maybe it turns out there is not enough for everything – both for national projects and for arms and here is a custom internet that must be built. And that will not cost one billion as we know. Will there be enough for everything in that situation? This is the question. So there is a risk to the rating. It looks like they really overdid it on the rockets."
(Kommersant.ru, February 21, 2019)
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7908, Putin's Address To Russia's Federation Council: Russia Will Target The US, If The Americans Deploy Medium And Short Range Missiles In Europe, February 24, 2019.
 Kommersant.ru, February 22, 2019.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7363, Putin After Unveiling The Revolutionary Hypersonic Sarmat ICBM: 'Nobody Wanted To Listen To Us – So Listen Now', March 5, 2018;
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7367, Reactions To Putin's State Of The Union Address: If What The U.S. Wants Is The Cold War, So Let It Be The Cold War – Part I, March 6, 2018;
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7372, Russian Commentators Criticize Putin's State Of The Nation Address For Strengthening U.S. Hawks Rather Than Paving Way For Negotiations Part II, March 8, 2018;
MEMRI Special Dispatch No.7378, Russian Military Analyst: 'Cold War' Is Now A Reality, March 12, 2018.