NV: We’re discussing what the results could be of the so-called “partial mobilization,” which Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced on Sept. 21. I know you have a lot of contacts with politicians, in particular current Russian politicians. How did the Russian elites react to this declaration?
Ponomarev: What results could it have? Of course, the collapse of the regime. This is exactly how the elites reacted, since they understand this will be agony. In fact, Putin has decided that Russia cannot win, and defeat is inevitable. He’s just trying to save the situation, but everyone here understands this is not the way to save the situation. And sooner or later (the Russians) will start to riot – that’s what it’s all about now.
NV: Why don’t they believe? Perhaps this is an ironic question, have they stopped believing in their Führer?
Ponomarev: First of all, they never believed in him, but there was a deal that he would not interfere in their lives, and they would pretend as if nothing was happening. That’s the way it goes, they’re just doing what they have to do as middle managers or heads of departments. But now this war is starting to affect everyone, it’s very dangerous and all this talk about nuclear weapons, and the protection of these newly annexed territories – of course, it scares everyone a lot.
Everyone now realizes that he (Putin) is at a dead end and that he might do anything to save himself, even use nuclear weapons. The Russian government and the Russian elites understand that this will mean a counter nuclear strike, it’s very dangerous, terrible, and nobody wants it.
NV: But you remember, as soon as the large-scale invasion began on Feb. 24, the problems of the Russian economy began: the ruble is falling, the dollar is rising, many of the Russian elites were panicking about what would happen next. And then a month or two passed, they all supported their leader’s line and nothing changed. Why should this situation with partial mobilization be different from what happened on Feb. 24?
Ponomarev: They never supported this line, they pretended it didn’t concern them, that it wasn’t their business. Their position was that they would just sit it out. Finally, they said he (Putin) probably knows something, he will probably just put pressure on the West, Ukraine, it will probably be weak in terms of the economy and Zelenskyy will be forced to negotiate. There will just be additional territories, the front line, which has already existed since 2014, it will just move a little and stop again.
But now it’s obvious this cannot stop, that this situation will keep developing, and of course the Russian government understands that the Russian military and industrial complex cannot meet the needs of the army, or produce new missiles and other high-tech weapons.
Of course, they can produce machine guns and tanks, but even guns are already problematic. That’s why they understand there will be more losses, and if there are more losses, there will be the dissatisfaction of the people. So the year 1917 isn’t far off.
NV: One way or another, when we talk about elites, we should talk about those who decide something, have some influence in Russia, and we should also talk about the so-called “party of war.” Experts say the so-called partial mobilization is a victory for the “party of war.” What do you think their plan is? How do they see their future now when they have achieved this interim victory?
Ponomarev: The point here is that what you’re calling now the “party of war,” I believe this isn’t correct. There was a “party of war” and a “party of peace” from the very beginning when the decision was made whether to invade or not. And now it’s just a matter of survival.
The people you call the “party of war” simply realize they have no future at all, so they need to go all-in to at least hope that through some negotiations they can freeze this front line, reach some kind of compromise, and somehow save themselves and the system.
NV: Do you believe Putin, seemingly indecisive, did not want to conduct the mobilization, and then (former Russian President Dmitry) Medvedev and (Russian Senator Andrei) Turchak came to him and said: no, we must conduct it, otherwise we will lose. And that it was they who convinced him that it should be done. Do you believe this is possible?
Ponomarev: I wouldn’t say he’s so indecisive. Putin is actually a very conservative person who doesn’t like taking any very risky drastic steps. But he’s a (poker) player, of course, he can make such decisions in general, as we saw in the issue of the invasion of Ukraine, he makes them at certain moments.
But now the question is that all his choices are between bad options. If they don’t start mobilization, it’s a guaranteed loss on the battlefield, but if they start mobilization, it very significantly increases the risk of revolution. But the risk of a revolution and a revolution in general – it may or may not happen, but the loss is guaranteed.
So, in the end, he made this decision and now I think blackmail with nuclear weapons is his main bet. He will try to intimidate even not so much Ukraine as the West, so that it puts pressure on us to do nothing. It’s risky for everyone.
NV: You definitely remember the panic and hysteria on Russian television late on Sept. 20, when Putin’s statement was planned, television marathons were held, it was announced. Then it was postponed to early Sept. 21, maybe you even have an insider, but what happened?
Ponomarev: I believe there was a discussion about the seventh point (of the mobilization decree, which has been kept secret from the public). First of all, it wasn’t clear whether it would be only “referendums” or “referendums” and mobilization, I believe the situation fluctuated there. But they’ve already decided that if we say A, it’s better to say B at the same time.
And there was also the question of how to formulate this decision since they didn’t even indicate how many people would be mobilized, they classified the seventh point of this decree. According to my information, it’s not about 300,000 mobilized, we were the first to receive information that there was a figure of a million mobilized.
But I believe there were certain people who said: OK, if there are “referendums” and “accession” of these territories, we can deploy conscripts in this territory and this will solve the issue of additional forces at the front. But the military said this was a utopia and mandatory mobilization would still be required after a certain time.
NV: It seems that now, after the announcement of mobilization, it’s the perfect time for a mutiny. Or is it possible to wait for another month, until dissatisfaction with the tsar on the part of the Russian population grows, and do something so that Putin is no longer president. Do you agree with this or not?
Ponomarev: I theoretically agree with this. But practically it’s not like that. For a mutiny to appear, the elite must have a feeling of significant danger, personal danger. Now, theoretically, they understand that it’s a dead end, and it’s a problem, but there’s still no such influential people’s movement.
Therefore, many will still hope they’ll be able to wait, to sit out a situation that will resolve itself. That won’t happen, but it will take them some time to realize it. So, I believe these movements you’re talking about will begin by the end of this year, early next year.
NV: We haven’t yet discussed that Russian character (Chechen leader Ramzan) Kadyrov. There was a statement from his side that there will be no more mobilization from Chechnya because they fulfilled his “quota” by 250%. How do you explain it? This was unexpected, wasn’t it?
Ponomarev: For others, but not for me – it was very expected. In general, I believe (and I’ve said it many times) that when everything begins, I mean the revolutionary process, my bet is that the bullet in Putin’s head will be Chechen. They will all move forward.
He (Kadyrov) is a very smart person and has always been like that, he feels this mobilization is a huge public relations problem. And right now, a rally will take place today near Chechnya, in Dagestan, in Makhachkala. This city has already been blocked by the police, barricades have already been erected there, we’re monitoring the situation there, trying to help this rally.
Because the mood in Dagestan is already for an armed protest and it will all depend on how many people will attend this rally, because if there are enough of them, the shooting will start precisely there.
NV: And how can you explain why that it’s in Dagestan that the protest mood is the greatest? How do you explain that it’s Dagestan that has become the biggest boiling point now?
Ponomarev: They already have the largest number of dead and, in addition, it’s not their war at all. For ordinary Russians it has the tinge of, perhaps, even a religious war, i.e. they’re fighting the Ukrainians as heretics who betrayed them and went a different way, to the West.
Therefore, this war is actually like a war between two parts of a close family that are arguing with each other, from the point of view of the Russians, this is exactly the concept presented to them by the Kremlin. But from the point of view of the Buryats, Dagestanis, any other national regions, what do they need it for? This is not their war at all.
Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine