Can Putin be removed from power?
Putin over the years has put ever more power in his hands, crafting ways to remain Russia’s leader showing no sign of relinquishing power of his own accord.
Vladimir Putin came to power as an unknown in 2000 promising to be a strong leader bringing order and prosperity to a chaotic and impoverished post-soviet Russia. Although at first he thought of returning to a normal life after being president, he now has created the conditions where he could stay in power until at least 2036.
Even if Putin wanted to leave, in his maneuverings to hold on to power he has produced an environment where he can no longer leave office. And that was before he ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine, putting his nation in breach of international law for which he could be personally held to account for war crimes.
Could Putin be impeached?
Theoretically, yes, Putin could be impeached. Christopher Tremoglie, who lived in Russia and studied its constitution, points to Chapter 4, Articles 92 and 93 of the Russian constitution which detail the provisions and process for impeaching a president. The process would require that Putin be charged with “high treason or another grave crime” which the invasion of Ukraine easily warrants.
The charges would have to be presented to the State Duma, the country’s parliament and confirmed by the Russian Federation Supreme Court. Then it would be up to the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Council of the Federation to decide whether or not to impeach Putin. The impeachment must be carried out within three months or the charges will be considered rejected.
The likelihood of impeaching Putin not as remote as it would seem
With all the machinations of Putin to strengthen his grip on power, it seems like there’s a snowball’s chance in Hades of that happening. Tremoglie though thinks that “such a scenario might not be as far off as previously thought.”
He points to the anti-war marches that have been occurring around Russia since the start of the invasion. Despite the normally heavy-handed response to demonstrations and prosecutors threatening protesters with potential criminal charges, which they say would come with long-term consequences, thousands have taken to the streets. Even a Communist Party deputy in the State Duma has participated in the marches.
These have led to many detentions as police try to break up the protests with up to as many as 6,000 arrested including children so far. Tremoglie argues that “the likelihood of [impeachment] grows greater each time Putin displays his totalitarianism.”
Additionally, some cracks may be appearing with the Russian oligarchs, one of the pillars that helps Putin wield power in the nation and abroad. Two of them didn’t voice opposition to the invasion but called for peace. Mikhail Fridman in a letter to staff said the conflict is “a tragedy” for both nations, while Oleg Deripaska called for peace talks “as fast as possible.”
How popular is Putin in Russia?
His popularity grew in the lead up to the invasion to almost 70 percent in late January, but in a poll in December 2021 nearly 40 percent of those surveyed didn’t think war with Ukraine was a real possibility. Past military adventures have pushed his popularity numbers up, but those bumps have not translated into long term positive views of the Russian leader.
Putin has sidelined nearly all opposition to his rule. In the run up to parliamentary elections last fall a Russian court outlawed organizations linked to imprisoned opposition politician Aleksei Navalny declaring them "extremist.” Navalny has accused Putin and people connected to the Kremlin with trying to kill him and his wife.
He had to be flown to Germany in September 2020 when he was poisoned with a nerve agent. Upon returning to Russia he was arrested for violating his probation terms, he was in hospital in Germany, for an earlier embezzlement conviction which he says was trumped up. One of many attempts to silence the Kremlin’s most prominent critic.