Vladimir Putin is facing a challenge to keep Russians on side as public support for the war in Ukraine plummets, according to British intelligence officials.
In its latest intelligence update, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) said on Sunday that recent polling suggests public support for what the Russian president has called a “special military operation” is “falling significantly.”
British officials were referring to a poll reportedly commissioned by the Kremlin “for internal use only” and obtained by Russian-language independent news outlet Meduza.
That data, according to the report, indicated that 55 percent of Russians favor peace talks with Ukraine, and only 25 percent claim to support continuing the conflict.
“These results are consistent with a separate October 2022 survey where 57 percent of respondents reported being in favour of talks,” the U.K. MOD said. “In April 2022, around 80 percent of Russians claimed to support the operation.”
The conflict has become “increasingly tangible for many Russians” since Putin ordered the partial mobilization of reservists in September despite the efforts by Russian authorities to “enforce pervasive control of the information environment,” it said.
The report added: “With Russia unlikely to achieve major battlefield successes in the next several months, maintaining even tacit approval of the war amongst the population is likely to be increasingly difficult for the Kremlin.”
However, in its latest assessment on Saturday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that some independent Russian polling data indicates Russian citizens still support Russia’s actions in Ukraine “despite growing war weariness over the past six months.”
The U.S. think tank cited a November poll from Russian polling organization Levada Center, which found 74 percent of citizens support Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
That poll also found 41 percent favored Russia continuing the conflict, while 53 percent said Russia should begin peace talks.
The ISW said the poll’s findings are “similar” to the Kremlin-commissioned poll.
Both polls indicate that a “shrinking but still significant portion of Russian citizens support—and are even enthusiastic about—continuing” the war in Ukraine despite Russia’s military failures, the ISW noted.
But the ISW said Russian morale and political support for the war “will likely further degrade with time if current trends hold.”
“The longer the war continues to produce Russian casualties while Ukrainian forces gain ground the more the socio-political dynamics will likely continue to turn against the Kremlin,” the ISW said.
It added that a pause in military operations “under the guise of peace negotiations could alleviate growing political pressure on the Kremlin and allow Russia to reconstitute its forces for subsequent renewed offensive operations.”
Newsweek has contacted Russia’s foreign ministry for comment.
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