A Nezavisimaya Gazeta editorial compares Russia's situation before and after February 24, and produces a shopping list of things that have gotten worse including polarization, contraction of political freedom, and Russia's diplomatic and economic isolation. Yet, despite all these setbacks, Putin's position is impregnable, as he is surrounded by an elite that he has constructed by himself and adored by the majority of the Russian people for defending the Russian speakers in Donbass. Western analysts, who predict that Putin will have to seek asylum, are clueless. Only Putin can do away with Putin. The analysts, who tout their theories about regime change in Russia are distracting Russians from the most important task of ensuring their own survival until Russian history takes a turn for the better.
The editorial follows below:
Putin, man of the people (Dagpravda.ru)
The special military operation (hereafter – the SVO) that was launched on February 24th genuinely transformed our real lives. The nuances of wording matter, depending on whether we want to highlight some notion in particular. But we won’t do so, as it’s important for us is to emphasize the emergence of a different reality in the past eight months. This new reality is changing and forming so swiftly that it’s impossible to set a corresponding new normality for reflects it, as normality is something that is defined as something that possesses the features of extended certainty and stability.
And these [features] are few in number. Partial mobilization, the destruction of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, the bombing of the Crimean bridge, talks of nuclear war, the mass flight of draft-age youth and the quarter of a million conscripts in the last month fundamentally change life "here and now," making it qualitatively different from life "here, but before."
The split in many social strata is pronounced and obvious, albeit asymmetrical. Propaganda pushes out information. The opposing factions have gone very far in their mutual accusations and exposes, having mastered the rhetoric of a mutual "pogrom" [in this case – "condemnation"] of traitors, turncoats, collaborators, etc. There is no evident basis for reconciliation, not just today, but also decades from now.
Curricula and textbooks are being changed. Political life in the country has thinned out to the density of cigarette smoke, while the line for the separation of power have become almost invisible, as on tracing paper. Furthermore, even within the legislative branch, there are calls to abolish elections.
The motive is simple: will society understand our differences, will it accept our differences during the times of uniting around [federal] power, will it not come as public acknowledgement of our substantial worthlessness, ambition, and selfishness?
The judicial branch also demonstrates kinship and a common cause with the executive branch in implementing acts that limit the rights to freedom of opinion and judgment in the SVO era. It reached the point that pro-government deputies, propagandists, military officers, and generals suddenly following the retreat from Kharkiv Oblast, "is began to wonder if it wasn't the time to start telling the truth?"
At first, they decided that only what the Russian Ministry of Defense reported could be considered truthful and everything else that contradicts it was a fake (incurring a criminal penalty). Then they demanded the truth, thereby pointing to the deficit of thereof in official sources. A new "face of truth" appeared (that of General Surovikin) who announced possible unpopular decisions. All breathed a sigh of relief, satisfied with a sip of truth. Nevertheless, no additional specifics regarding the objectives of the SVO, terms of its completion, or the visible symbols of victory were communicated.
"Protection of the people of Donbass," demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine, as the initially stated goals of the SVO have not been officially withdrawn. What’s more, high-ranking spokespeople, speak like carbon copies as pertain to the SVO. They say "I have no doubt that all the SVO goals assigned the armed forces will be unconditionally achieved." This is a coherent level of consistency, which paradoxically, doesn’t clarify anything in the slightest. This, also, can be attributed to the new reality.
Judging by all appearances, relations with the West have been axed, while the search for friends, allies and markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America has not yet brought a substitute for the West. And it there is no certainty that it will. The reason is simple: developing countries are mired in debt and too financially dependent in their daily lives on the West and its key institutions: the World Bank and the IMF. Argentina is negotiating hard for 40 billion USD, but actually needs at least 52 billion USD. India enters into a joint microchip production agreement with the US, and they keep a sharp eye to ensure that none of the micro-chips Russia needs for its critical economic and defense sectors will get there from anywhere or ever. Sanctions, blockade, criminal prosecutions, diplomatic pressure on the disobedient are the tools of containment and coercion in international relations (these too are the reality).
The two economic modernizations in Russian history, under Peter the Great and Stalin, were conducted along with technological assistance from the West. More than 20,000 foreign engineers and workers from the US, and the Ford, Siemens, Junkers, Albert Kahn and General Electric companies participated in the commissioning of the flagships of the first Soviet Five-Year Plan: the Chelyabinsk and Stalingrad Tractor Plants, the Magnitogorsk and Novokuznetsk Metallurgical Plants, GAZ and AZLK plants, the Kazan aircraft plant and many, many others. Now, naturally, we will have to make do with our own resources.
What about Putin?
He doesn't lose heart and the conviction that he is doing everything right, and has no regrets, and his talks with journalists from the Kremlin pool attest to this unequivocally.
The president’s bureaucratic entourage, which Putin personally composed together out of his own [idiosyncratic] perceptions "about [what can be considered] beautiful", supports him. There are no illusions, but there is criticism that sometimes is quite harsh, but it’s made by other members of the team and never by Putin. It’s the same with the Russian people, the majority of them.
The majority is grateful to Putin for protecting Russians. After all, no one in the world talks about Russians in Donbass, [except for Putin]. And 8 months ago, he went from words to deeds. It’s impossible to destroy or undermine this narrative amongst the majority of Russians. As for the oligarchs under sanctions, the West’s calculation on their revolting after it the West deprived them of their palaces, yachts, accounts and visas appears idiotic, to put it mildly. To expect from a man confidence in your policies and ideals after you have deprived him of his wealth and status is ridiculous.
Thus, today Putin cannot be dethroned either from above, or from below, or from without. Only he can only dethrone himself. This is the reality of the popular authoritarian leader of a nuclear power. You must reckon with it.
Otherwise, [you get] false expectations, "based on reliable information," that Putin will soon flee for permanent residence in one of the friendly countries like China, [and this] will lead "analysts" and their suffering flock ever further away from a real understanding of what is actually happening, why it is happening, and for how long it will last. [And it will deflect them] as well from what must be done in order to survive, to preserve one’s live and health, which may come in handy in another historical spiral of Russian reality.
 Ng.ru, October 23, 2022.