Putin faces public revolt over Ukraine – Support for war crumbling as casualties mount

Putin: John Sweeney gives his assessment of Russian President

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The changing tide in public opinion comes as the Kremlin continues to struggle to replenish its front line ranks after sustaining huge casualties in its military campaign. The Ukrainian army claimed in its latest battlefield update that 39,000 Russians have been killed in action since hostilities began in late February. US defence officials put the figure at 15,000 dead, while UK intelligence says that 25,000 Russian soldiers have died.

To put the various numbers into perspective, around 15,000 Soviet soldiers lost their lives during the 10-year occupation of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan stands as a stark warning to the embattled Russian leader, as he appears to be facing a drop in public enthusiasm for his latest military adventure.

A collapse in Soviet public support for the the war in Afghanistan forced the then leader of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev to pull out his troops.

Some historians believe this episode helped to bring about the collapse of the Soviet regime.

Now, history may be about to repeat itself, after the first significant signs of public anger at the war were revealed in a recent survey.

The Krasnoyarsk Independent Regional Channel (TVK) in Siberia asked its viewers during a live news programme to vote on whether they wanted the war to continue or whether peace talks should be held instead.

A clear majority, 59 percent voted for peace, while 41 percent were against ending hostilities.

A clip of the news programme was posted by Igor Girkin to his Twitter account.

He is a former military and intelligence officer who helped organise pro-Russian militias during the 2014 war in the Donbas.

Mr Girkin commented on the vote, writing: “Krasnoyarsk revolts?”

Most polling to date has shown that Russians overwhelmingly support the military campaign in Ukraine.

One of the most recent surveys was carried out by the Levada Center in late May.

The data showed that 77 percent of Russians backed the war, which represented a slight increase on the corresponding figure for April.

However, a leading Russian anti-war protester from Siberia told Express.co.uk that millions of Russians were against the war and polls generally do not reflect real public opinion.

The anti-war campaigner explained: “Levada is an independent centre, but opinion polls don’t really reflect what people are thinking.

“Most people will side with the safe majority even if someone is privately against the war or critical of Putin.

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“They won’t say so in these public polls which they know are controlled by the state.

“So either they refuse to answer or they answer approvingly because under present draconian laws if you simply say ‘I don’t support the special military operation’, then you could be hit with a fine for 33,000 roubles.

“Or if you say something more critical then you could be threatened with a criminal case.”

He added: “It’s impossible to know the real numbers – but if you compare now with what happened eight years ago when they annexed Crimea – then there were numerous pro-government meetings around the country where 10,000s even 100,000s of people did turn up.

“Now, despite the fact that the meetings are organised by the Kremlin and they bus in state workers – there are very few of these meetings.”

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