Team Putin Begs Rich Russians to Help Save His Failing War

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech announcing partial mobilization has prompted heated reactions across Russia. Prominent lawmakers and pundits expressed their enthusiastic support on state television, but tangible concerns have been brewing behind the bluster.

Even the most dedicated pro-Kremlin propagandists haven’t been able to hide their apprehension about the obvious shortcomings of the Russian economy and its military-industrial complex. In Wednesday’s broadcast of state television show 60 Minutes, even the studio seemed to be in disarray, with a large puddle of water clearly visible near one of the podiums.

Senior military analyst Mikhail Khodaryonok poured yet more water on Putin’s declaration when he noted during the show that: “Mobilization is the face of the nation.” That face seems to be lacking some teeth, with glaring issues pertaining to the lack of military equipment and technologies bemoaned even by the most rabid propagandists. Khodaryonok pointed out: “An issue that is no less important than others is how well these people will be armed and equipped... They should receive modern uniforms, modern gear, rations, medical kits, items having to do with support and logistics, modern weapons… It’s just inappropriate.”

Those fortunate enough not to face mobilization should contribute in other ways, declared military expert Igor Korotchenko during his appearance on the show.

“It’s extremely important that our new military divisions that are being formed today receive necessary equipment and weapons,” he stressed. “Since we’re talking about the future of our nation, there has to be the consolidation of all available resources. We should create a fund of support for the special military operation. Our socially responsible prominent oligarchy should share their profits, so that our fighters on the front lines can be properly armed and equipped.”

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Korotchenko went on: “Everyone should play their part. We can’t have it that some will luxuriate in Rublyovka [a prestigious residential area in the western suburbs of Moscow], while others are defending the Motherland. Those who are fattened up in the economic sense need to share their resources so that we can supply our troops with everything that is needed.”

It appears that the Russian elite however—including many top pro-Kremlin propagandists—would much rather cheer from the sidelines than join Russia’s brutal and bloody imperial endeavor. Host of 60 Minutes Evgeny Popov pondered on-air whether he was subject to mobilization, with an expression devoid of any signs he was feeling particularly lucky.

Dmitry Nizovtsev, host of Popular Politics, a YouTube channel operated by supporters of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, prank-called the sons of the Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov and Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Mishustin. Neither Nikolai Peskov nor Alexey Mishustin expressed any desire to fight on the front lines, and both of them rushed to end the call. As luck would have it, the rich and the well-connected in Russia won’t have to risk their life and limb to serve the Motherland.

Still, that hasn’t stopped many of these talking heads from vehemently expressing their verbal support for the Kremlin’s new decisions to millions across the country.

In another broadcast of 60 Minutes, State Duma Defense Committee's head Andrey Kartapolov tried to persuade the sour-faced panelists how lucky they are “to live in such wonderful times,” with Russia “becoming the axis of a new world order.” Apparently not feeling lucky, Dmitry Abzalov, director of the Center for Strategic Communications, questioned the preparedness of the Russian economy for what’s to come.

In the hours preceding Putin's announcement, another State Duma member, Andrey Gurulyov, was brimming with excitement. “It’s clear to me that today’s decision is the beginning of the end of Ukraine. That’s it, that nation no longer exists,” he said on a broadcast of The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov. “Ukraine’s history is ending and perhaps it’s a good thing.”

In the weeks preceding the announcement, the Kremlin’s state TV mouthpieces appear to have been laying the groundwork for the mobilization. State TV show 60 Minutes, which spent many months deriding Ukrainian troops and scoffing at Western weapons, suddenly changed its course, with host Olga Skabeeva unexpectedly admitting that the Ukrainian army was a “powerful” force and NATO’s weapons were “highly effective.”

Appearing on Wednesday’s broadcast of The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, head of RT Margarita Simonyan admitted that Putin’s mobilization is a forced measure, prompted by the military defeats of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine: “Am I glad we declared partial mobilization? No, I’m not glad... Obviously, partial mobilization was declared because we can’t achieve our aims without it.”

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