End of Putin? Public anger and defiance grows as popularity ratings plummet

It comes as the country saw its biggest single day jump in new COVID-19 infections, with over 10,000 additional cases confirmed on Sunday. The pandemic has had a devastating toll on Russia’s economy, which has been hard hit by the dramatic drop in oil prices. The Russian economy is very much reliant on its natural resources, in particular the sales of oil and gas.

Whereas European governments have moved fast to support businesses withstand the economic shock caused by the lockdowns, Putin’s government has moved more cautiously.

The Kremlin has introduced limited measures such as interest-free loans and some tax breaks, but these are seen as insufficient.

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In a rare demonstration of public defiance against the Putin regime, the footballer Yevgeny Frolov lashed out at Putin in an interview.

He said: “What the president says on television is empty words.

“We’re asked to stay at home but there’s no help from the government.”

A recent poll published last Monday showed that Russians’ trust in Vladimir Putin had fallen to a 14-year low, as the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak threatens to undermine the legitimacy of his authoritarian regime.

The poll was carried out by the state-funded VTsIOM polling agency, which showed that just 28.3 percent of Russians named Putin, when asked to name a politician whom they trust.

Furthermore, only 46 percent of those surveyed by the independent pollster Levada Centre in March would like to see Putin in power when his current term expires in 2024, compared to 54 percent last June.

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Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Russia was preparing to hold a vote on constitutional amendments allowing the Russian president to stay in power until at least 2036.

The new political reality being forged by the pandemic has thrown the outcome of that vote into doubt, when it finally goes ahead, as most commentators expect.

By all accounts. The Kremlin will find it difficult to get the required voter turn-out to validate the vote.

Moscow-based political analyst Masha Lipman told the Daily Telegraph: “People don’t care about this (vote) at all right now: what they worry about is their economic future.”

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Opposition leader Alexey Navalny has organised a petition calling on the Kremlin to provide more support for the public and businesses.

Mr Navalny is demanding emergency pay-outs to Russians, as well as the scrapping of all taxes for small businesses.

His petition has already attracted more than half a million signatures.

The anti-corruption campaigner is seen as a real political threat to Putin and was barred from taking part in Russia’s presidential elections in 2018.

As the lethal virus remorselessly continues its onward march, many hospitals are at breaking point as they become inundated with patients ill from COVID-19.

There is a chronic lack of basic medical equipment, including personal protective clothing, as well as eligible medical staff, it has been reported.

Low wages and poor working conditions have led to a shortage of over 25,000 medical staff, with the regions worst affected.

Government documents seen by Express.co.uk show the desperate struggle by regional administrations to access vital medical supplies and protective equipment for hospital staff.

In an assessment of the problems facing the healthcare system in Russia’s regions, the Ministry of Emergencies wrote that “there was an acute shortage” of ventilators, with hospitals told that they would have to wait anywhere between two to six months for orders to be delivered.

In one instance the Tomsk region was told by the Ministry of Industry and Trade that “there is no medical equipment and there is no production capacity yet”.

Other regional authorities were informed that they would have to wait up to three months for the delivery of supplies of personal protective clothing.

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