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Russia: Putin opponent reveals impact of Western sanctions
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Russia this week said it will drastically cut back activity near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and around Chernihiv in a pledge that was dismissed by Western officials as a likely attempt to “play for time”. Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia were held on Wednesday but are thought to have fallen short of expectation. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down any hopes of a breakthrough in continuing peace talks with the two powers.
He told reporters that Russia had not noticed “anything really promising”, but said the chief Russian negotiator will provide an update later.
Many say that while the negotiations are in themselves a step in the right direction, Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to let up anytime soon, desperate to frame his conflict as a victorious “special military operation” to the Russian people.
But for how long this position is viable is up for debate.
Moscow is currently trembling under the enormous weight of western and worldwide sanctions slapped on in the days and weeks after the invasion began.
While previous sanctions focused mainly on those thought to be close to Putin and the Kremlin, the restrictions this time round are slowly trickling down to the Russian people.
Further to this, private companies from around the world have stepped up and moved in line with governments, temporarily pulling the plug on their operations in Russia, meaning people can no longer buy something as simple as a Big Mac.
According to Natia Seskuria, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), all of this has combined to create an environment of high pressure and high tension.
She believes now is a crucial time for Putin and his people, as normal citizens feel the bite of the consequences of their president’s actions and are forced to make a decision about their future.
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She told Express.co.uk: “I think this is a crucial time, because the Russian population is already feeling the heavy weight of sanctions, and these sanctions are the ones that are affecting the population at every level.
“It’s not just about the super rich being affected anymore — every single person already feels like life is not the same anymore.
“This is of course concerning for Putin’s regime because, even if ordinary citizens are not that concerned about Russia invading a foreign and sovereign country and killing people there, economic issues are something that always cause rage among a population.
“This could in the long-term really affect how people express their support for Putin.”
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Ms Seskuria went on to talk about the so-called Colour Revolutions that took place in some former Soviet states in the early Noughties and the effect they had on the mindset of Putin and his allies.
She said the idea of mass protest chills Putin and his allies to the bone, and continued: “What we see now is really extraordinary, because I think there is a deep fear and this is the fear that runs through the entire presidency of Putin.
“Since 2003, he has been very fearful about the impact of the Coloured Revolutions that happened in Georgia in 2003, and Ukraine in 2004.
“The mass protest is something Putin’s regime has been suppressing and has been fearful of for a long time.
“I think that’s why they’re trying to convert Russia into a big information bubble.”
Current sanctions are far-ranging and have been led by the EU, US and UK.
A ban on the export of dual-use goods items with both a civilian and military purpose, such as vehicle parts, has been imposed by those three powers.
This is reportedly having some impact on Russian manufacturers, with Ukraine claiming that Russia’s main armoured vehicle factory has run out of parts to make and repair tanks.
The UK is also imposing sanctions on Russia’s Wagner Group — a private military firm thought to function as an arm’s length unit of the Russian military.
All Russian flights have been banned from the US, UK, EU and Canadian airspace, and the UK has also banned private jets chartered by Russians.
These are just a few of the sanctions in place.
Elsewhere, companies like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Heineken have pulled out of the country.
The world’s biggest cosmetics firm L’Oreal and rival Estee Lauder are both closing shops and ceasing online sales.
And Swedish furniture giant Ikea, the introduction of which marked a turning point for Russia and its people in embracing the western world, has also closed its doors.
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