A leaked Kremlin poll has revealed that public support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dropped significantly, with just one in four Russians now in favor.
Published by the Kremlin’s Federal Guard Service (FSO), the report was intended for the eyes of senior government officials, but was leaked to independent Russian news site Meduza.
The fall in public support for keeping Russian soldiers in Ukraine (down from 57 percent in July), follows widespread disapproval of President Vladimir Putin’s calls for mobilization and the forced conscription of hundreds of thousands of Russian men to the front lines.
Last week, the Russian president attempted to placate the public backlash by meeting with the wives and mothers of Russian troops, telling them not to believe “lies” about the invasion during a special event held at his personal residence in Nov-Ogarevo, near Moscow.
“I want you to know that I personally, all the leaders of the country, share this pain,” he said. “We know that nothing can replace the loss of a son.”
The meeting was slammed by the founder of Russia’s Council of Mothers and Wives, Olga Tsukanova, who said in a video address that Putin should meet with “real mothers,” rather than “hand-picked” individuals.
It was later revealed that only one of the 17 women who attended the meeting actually had a son conscripted into the army.
The leaked report marked “for internal use only,” reveals that 55 percent of polled Russians favor engaging in peace talks with Ukraine, while only a quarter still support the war’s continuation. This is a marked change from a July FSO study which found only 30 percent favorable to negotiations.
Fallout from Putin’s conscription gamble
Moscow and other parts of Russia have seen large anti-war protests since Putin’s original conscription announcement in mid-September.
Along with street demonstrations, long queues at border crossings, and the arrest of Russian men refusing to fight in Ukraine, some have taken to more drastic measures to dodge the draft.
On Oct. 1, a widely circulated video on social media showed the friend of a Russian reservist attempting to break his friend’s arm with a sledgehammer so he could not be sent to the front lines in Ukraine.
The clip shows a man raising a sledgehammer and smashing it down onto the arm of the conscripted Russian as he holds it on a wooden bench and covers his face with his other hand.
The draftee then walks away from the bench in a seemingly dazed state, swearing while his limp arm hangs by his side.
Meanwhile, the mobilization of over 300,000 reservists has created the biggest labor shortage in Russia since 1993, according to a Gaidar Institute study published in November.
“Simply put, this will mean that we will have fewer healthy, educated and strong people, the ones who create a country’s GDP,” Vladimir Gimpelson, a labor market economist told The Financial Times this week. “If economic growth were the government’s priority, then I would call this a disastrous mistake.”
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