PHOTO: Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin started 2022 thinking he would soon rule over an expanded Russian empire after invading Ukraine, but he has not had a good year.After launching a full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine in February, Kremlin insiders reportedly believed that Kyiv would fall under Russian control within a week. But a spirited fightback from the Ukrainians and global sanctions mean that Putin may have found himself in a weaker position than when he started the year.
On the 20th of December, Putin admitted the invasion was “extremely complicated,” and earlier this month he said that the “special military operation” in Ukraine was taking longer than anticipated. As Russian troops lose ground in Ukraine, the Kremlin announced that Putin won’t hold his regular end-of-year press conference for the first time in a decade, or do his usual winter Red Square ice-hockey match. Recent military humiliations have included relinquishing key territorial gains in Ukraine, including the city of Kherson, which he claimed as Russia’s in a glitzy ceremony in Moscow just months earlier. But that’s not all. This year he has been ostracised by the international community and had his country hit with trillions of dollars of sanctions. He was also been threatened with war crimes charges for the torture, rape and murder of civilians in occupied towns such as Bucha. There have been no shortage of serious military embarrassments, including the sinking of the Moskva ship and the bombing of the Kerch bridge. The “partial mobilisation” of fighting-age Russian men to the battlefields of Ukraine sparked hundreds of anti-war and anti-conscription protests across the country. He was forced to hold a carefully orchestrated meeting with mothers of servicemen in November after widespread anger over the apparently high fatality rates of drafted men. His personal life has also been intensely scrutinised this year, with his reported girlfriend Alina Kabeva hit with US sanctions, and there has been persistent speculation about his health.But still, his domestic approval ratings are at 80 percent. Meanwhile, Ukrainians continue to deal with the devastation brought on by Putin’s brutal war as the country struggles through winter with an energy shortage caused by Russian bombs.