39 percent of Russians express trust Vladimir Putin; a number that has been constantly falling for over a year. The independent Russian pollster Levada Center has performed a survey on whom the Russians trust among the active politicians in Russia. 1.600 Russians all over the country has been asked to list politicians they trust, and, according to the pollster, almost one in four, 24 percent, could not name a single trustworthy person in Russian politics. While the trust in Putin is declining, the general distrust in politicians has grown steadily during the last year. Russian pundit Konstantin Kalachev is commenting the numbers to respected daily Kommersant:
Vladimir Putin’s ratings are returning to a normal level. To raise them would demand popular actions. Hiking in Siberia or ceremonial meetings abroad is not enough. There is a need to systematically improve living conditions of the citizens and create a better atmosphere in the country. It is possible to raise the numbers through firing someone, reinstate capital punishment after resounding crimes or present changes in his personal life.
A recurrent narrative in pro-Kremlin disinformation, targeting European audiences, is a notion about a manipulative elite, attempting to control the people and media. In opposition, Kremlin owned media describe themselves as “alternative”; as source for the kind of information “the corporate media would cover up”. Russian state-owned channel RT provides its viewers with a concise list of “MSM” (Mainstream Media) – a derogatory term for professional, accountable and independent media outlets. The Kremlin lists selected media outlets as untrustworthy and manipulative, and key media professionals as “scandalous”:
A billionaire, the fifth-wealthiest in France, king of the aerospace and arms industry, Essonne Senator Serge Dassault is also a press baron. Present everywhere, scandalous everywhere. He has been implicated in a legal scandal for several years now. In particular, he’s accused of having paid for ‘Wright’ votes (influencing a preferential voting system) while serving as mayor of Corbeil-Essonnes.
Kremlin spin-doctors describe Russia’s political system as superior to European democracy. In a series of articles, EU vs Disinfo has presented Russian dissident voices, persistently challenging the Kremlin’s attempt to monopolise the information space in Russia. Independent media outlets are shut down or face harassment; dissident voices are silenced. Levada’s survey demonstrates that Kremlin might control some of the broadcasters, but it cannot control the audience.