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27 Aug, 2020 11:52

Putin’s approval rating soars as Russia’s Covid lockdowns are slowly lifted, but remains far below dizzying post-Crimea highs

Putin’s approval rating soars as Russia’s Covid lockdowns are slowly lifted, but remains far below dizzying post-Crimea highs

Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has reached a six-month high as the Covid-19 situation improves in Russia and lockdowns are eased, hitting 66 percent – the highest figure since February.

However, the result represents the Russian president’s worst August approval rating since 2013.

According to the Levada Center, a polling outfit which has received Western funding in the past, more than two-thirds of Russians now approve of the job that Putin is doing. In February his rating was 69 percent, but that plunged to record lows of 59 percent in May and April.

“There’s an overall relief that the uncertainty is over,” said Levada analyst Denis Volkov, speaking to US news outlet Bloomberg. He explained that Covid-19-related government handouts had boosted the president’s popularity, but the rating may not hold up if the economy falters.

There were also a few wild conspiracy theories on social media, with some Twitter ‘blue-ticks’ trying to avoid giving Russian politicians any credit for their handling of the pandemic. One former reporter from the British state-run BBC Russia theorized that Putin’s approval rating boost is “most certainly” due to the unrest in Belarus, claiming that “people are very afraid of revolutions.”

Although Putin’s numbers are enviable by European standards, the president is far less popular than he used to be. In August 2014, he received his highest approval rating of 84 percent, only dropping below 80 percent in 2018, as the patriotic feeling stirred up by Crimea began to fade.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who played the most prominent role in the national Covid-19 response, saw his approval rating hit 60 percent, the highest yet in his seven months in the job.

Levada also asked survey participants whether they believe that the country is moving in the right direction. This month, just over half (51 percent) of surveyed citizens thought Russia is heading in the correct direction. 42 percent said that they believe Russia is heading down the wrong path.

Named after its founder, the late Yuri Levada, the Levada Center has been accused of being a liberal opposition think tank. In 2016, the polling company was registered as a “foreign agent” within Russia due to having received Western funding.

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