In Other News – Putin Takes Defense Measures to Tighten His Grip on Society – 7/21/2022

July 21, 2022

As Russia advances its Ukraine offensive, Putin is taking defensive measures back home to tighten his grip on society. Nearly 150 days into the war, the regional battle between Russia and Ukraine continues to significantly impact geopolitics and the global economy. This week, Putin continued to court other politically isolated nations like Iran, and the United States and United Kingdom made new weapons pledges in support of Ukraine. Gas began to flow again from Russia to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline after a recent closure, but there remain fears about future supply. Some progress is reportedly being made on the food export discussions, and Germany is also taking measures to move some of the trapped Ukrainian grain to German ports for distribution. But while the repercussions of the war continue to have wide-ranging impact, Ukraine and Russia are also dealing with domestic concerns.

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s parliament dismissed the domestic security chief and prosecutor general in a statement against any potential Russian collaborators or state traitors, and Ukraine has requested that its creditors grant the nation a two-year payment freeze on its international bonds. Ukraine is understandably facing some economic and security threats due to the conflict, but it’s Russia that appears the most worried about what’s happening within its borders. According to OVD-Info, an independent media project that has documented Russia’s crackdown on opposition for over a decade, thousands of anti-war demonstrators have been arrested across Russia since the war began in February.

Further, Putin is enacting a slew of new legislation to control the political narrative and the behavior of his citizenry. The new laws, which are broad in scope, target everything from internet and press freedom to financial and lifestyle choices. In Russia, it is now prohibited to transact in cryptocurrency, and Wikipedia is being penalized for failing to erase material deemed “fake news” by the Kremlin. Other tech companies are now being significantly fined for failing to comply with Russia’s “landing law” that requires they establish representative offices in Russia. The state is also taking novel measures to obscure the size of its gold and foreign currency reserves.

On Monday, Russia’s parliament moved to further expand restrictions of LGBTQ rights and relationships, and Russian authorities are now able to mark citizens as “foreign agents” even without proof of receiving foreign payments. Religious groups are also being targeted, and the Russian security council has blamed any Ukrainian sympathies on “excessive permissiveness” in the religious field and misinterpretations of what “freedom of conscience” means. This week, Russian authorities asked a Moscow court to dissolve a prominent global Jewish non-profit that handles emigration of Jews to Israel, likely due to Moscow’s distrust of Israel’s stance on the war and fears of foreign influence.

There are also new laws in Russia that speak directly to the war effort, including encouraging civilians to serve in Ukraine and ostensibly granting them veteran status after even one day on the battlefield. Special economic measures to ensure the government can control its labor force and production are now up and running, and punishments for any potentially war-related crimes have been increased. Putin is also seemingly trying to rally the youth behind the effort via the establishment of a new nationwide youth and children’s movement. While the concept might harken back to Soviet times, it also addresses one of Putin’s greatest potential adversaries– the youth, who will now be fed heavy state-level propaganda before any potential exposure to global media or ideas is even possible.