From the conclusion to ‘Kicking the Kremlin’ by British journalist Marc Bennetts:
The protest movement has failed to bring Putin down, but there is a new vulnerability about the ‘national leader’. The Kremlin’s crackdown was not so much a sign of Putin’s strength, as a tacit admission that he felt threatened.
… Ominously for Putin, the amount of Russians who believe what they see and hear on television is falling fast … and even those who believe are starting to have their doubts. … Russia is changing, but Putin is not. ‘It’s a very difficult moment to pinpoint,’ said Gleb Pavlovsky, the ex-Kremlin political consultant. ‘But whenever the emotional connection with the people is gone, it’s gone forever.’
A generation has lived their entire adult lives with Putin as either president or prime minister. Familiarity has, inevitably, bred contempt. In the words of one former supporter, Putin’s ‘judo tricks no longer cut it.’ … Putin is increasingly a figure of fun. His message of stability is increasingly irrelevant to a generation that has little memory of the chaotic 1990s. For many Russians in their early to mid-twenties, Putin is simply, as one protestor described him to me, some ‘weird old man’ who has been in politics far too long.
‘He’s lost it completely,’ said Matvei Krylov, the young activists who left home at the age of fourteen to join the fight against Putin. ‘When you look at him, you can tell that he doesn’t want to be in power anymore.’ … Krylov laughed, his words a mixture of pity and contempt ‘But he’s trapped. He’s got nowhere to run.’
Published in February 2014.