Vladimir Putins presidency at risk as Russians demand better life: Scares Kremlin

Gordon Brown on punishing Vladimir Putin over Ukraine

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More than 4,300 people were detained at anti-war protests across Russia this weekend, according to Russian authorities. Some 1,700 people were detained in Moscow alone according to the country’s Interior Minister, as President Vladimir Putin continued his invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. Rallies reportedly took place in 53 Russian cities despite protests having become increasingly restricted by Russian law in recent years.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been condemned by leaders across the world and has sparked a raft of sanctions.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to push for further action to remove Russia from the Swift banking payment system and will hold talks with Canadian President Justin Trudeau and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on imposing more sanctions.

The restrictions are reportedly affecting Russia on all levels of society, with the oligarchs’ ability to do business hindered; the poor hit by higher prices and the prospect of inflation caused by the crashing ruble; and the middle class severed from Western services and products they have come to rely on, including Apple Pay, Visa, Spotify, Nike and Dell among others.

Chris Weafer, CEO of Moscow-based strategy consultancy Macro-Advisory, claimed that even before the war, the Kremil was “scared” of Russia’s “changing demographics”.

Read More: Putin now seizes Russian bank accounts

A number of Russians were born after the fall of the Soviet Union and are now demanding better lives.

Speaking to CNBC in September last year, Mr Weafer said: “[They] want an improved lifestyle, incomes, social support and a better future for themselves and their families.

“The big challenge for President Putin and the so-called Russian ‘elites’ will be how to satisfy those expectations while keeping power.

“Failures in the former will more severely undermine the latter in the next presidential term ‒ no matter who the President may be.”

Since becoming President for the first time in 1999, Putin oversaw a period of growth in the Russian economy.

However, in 2014, a fall in global oil prices and the string of sanctions imposed following Putin’s annexation of Crimea created massive pressure on the Russian economy.

At the time, the decline in the ruble led to massive inflation, which seriously affected Russian consumers.

Speaking to CNBC in October last year, Putin said that improving Russian citizens’ living standards was his primary concern. 

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He said: “Our main problem, our main issue and goal is to increase the revenues of our citizens.

“This is our main challenge. We need to ensure economic growth and to increase its quality. These are our long term tasks.”

Putin insisted that the government was “going to improve the social situation to increase the revenues of our citizens”.

He continued: “The second very important task is the demographic situation. And it entails a lot of social issues, healthcare, education, supporting families with children. 

“So these two very important issues, [the] demographic one and increasing the revenue of our citizens and improving their quality of life, should be solved on the basis of economic growth. 

“That’s what we are going to do in the near future.”

On Saturday, Putin delivered a chilling message to the West, in which he said that its imposition of sanctions against Russia was “akin to an act of war”.

He hinted that Russia’s invasion could be extended beyond Ukraine unless the West relaxed its sanctions. 

Later, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova specifically singled out the UK for what they considered to be “sanctions hysteria”.

Ms Zakharova insisted that Russia would not forget the UK’s cooperation with Kyiv.

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