How nervous are the Kremlin's loyalists about the new protest mood sweeping Russia?
Apparently, according to report this week in Meduza and Dozhd-TV, they're nervous enough to pay pop star Alisa Vox 2 million rubles to appear in a slick antiprotest music video warning young people to "stay out of politics and give your brain a shower."
How nervous are the regime's surrogates about opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's ability to persistently harness the protest mood?
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Apparently nervous enough for Kremlin-connected oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who is suing Navalny for libel, to post a 12-minute video online in which he calls the opposition leader and anticorruption crusader "a loser" and "a scoundrel."
The pop star and the oligarch are just the two latest examples of the Putin regime's hybrid war against dissent.
Teachers across Russia have been warning students about dire consequences for protesting.
And, of course, pro-Kremlin vigilante groups have repeatedly attacked Navalny and other opposition figures with the green antiseptic zelyonka.
It's all very thuggish. But it also a bit clumsy and smacks a bit of desperation.
Now, this regime is not on the ropes, not by a long shot.
But what I call the Crimea drug -- the patriotic euphoria unleashed by Putin's war on Ukraine -- is clearly wearing off and a nasty hangover is setting in.
And for the first time in years, the Kremlin is losing control of the narrative.
For the first time in years, they don't have a compelling story to tell.
For the first time in years, the Putin regime appears to have run out of rationales for why it should rule indefinitely.
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