Here’s what Putin’s 'paranoid obsession' with 'public safety' is really about: Eurasian affairs expert

Here’s what Putin’s 'paranoid obsession' with 'public safety' is really about: Eurasian affairs expert

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has been canceling major public events, including celebrations of May Day (May 1) and Victory Day (the May 9 holiday remembering the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany during World War 2). Putin claims that he is doing so for public safety reasons and that he fears violent attacks in Russia by the Ukrainian government.

But in an op-ed published by The Guardian on May 2, Samantha de Bendern — known for her focus on Eurasian affairs and her commentary for the French news channel La Chaîne d'Information — argues that Putin's explanation for the cancellations is disingenuous. In reality, de Bendern emphasizes, Putin is worried about Russians publicly expressing opposition to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"A Ukrainian drone attack on Red Square during the Victory Day military parade would be humiliating for Putin," De Bendern explains, "but it seems more likely that he's worried about the potential humiliation of thousands of civilians marching with the portraits of sons and husbands fallen in Ukraine….The banning of public events during the May holidays is less likely to be out of concern for citizens' safety, and more to do with Putin's paranoid obsession with shutting down any channel for criticism of his war, even if open support for Ukraine is tiny and the threat of a popular uprising very remote."

READ MORE: Vladimir Putin investigated millions of civil servants to test their 'loyalty' and weed out 'threats': report

The Eurasian affairs expert and associate fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House, notes that although Putin has cracked down on civilian anti-war protests, "dissent and conflict continues to grow in military circles" in Russia.

De Bendern observes, "Putin has not reacted publicly to any of the military bloggers or private armies — all armed and violent men — who criticize the way the war is being fought. But walking around with a cardboard sign calling for peace can lead to temporary arrest, and being an anti-war intellectual carries the risk of a 25-year prison sentence. Russia is not on the verge of a popular revolution, but Putin still feels threatened enough by public anti-war protests to crack down at the first sign of peaceful civil dissent."

READ MORE: 'So much crap piled up': Why Vladimir Putin may be in over his head

Read Samantha de Bendern's full op-ed article for The Guardian at this link.

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