Times Radio – hosting propaganda
The anchor does the usual thing, a kind of ritual, when talking about next year’s Presidential elections in Russia. She has to remind everyone that the elections are not elections. “it is rather naive of me to even ask the question, of course there will not be any serious candidate against Putin in the election”. The fact that they can’t admit (probably genuinely can’t) is that Putin is easily, by a mile, the most popular politician in Russia. The Levada centre, a Russian polling organisation which carries the ‘Foreign Agent’ label in Russia due to its being supported by the West, (in passing Israel has a similar law – a fact totally suppressed by the Western media when they complain about Russia’s Foreign Agent law) reports that Putin currently has around an 80% approval rating. The elections in Russia are not as “free” as, say UK ones; there can be obstacles put in the way of opposition candidates and parties registering, state media tends to support the preferred candidate and state bodies can encourage employees to vote for United Russia (or Putin) – though incidents of outright fraud are probably quite low. (E.g see the OSCE report into the 2012 Presidential elections ). But; that perhaps isn’t the point.
The working assumption behind this line, (apart from the blatant propagandistic covering-up of Putin’s popularity and substitution of that fact with the false narrative that Alexander Navalny is a liberal and is the main opposition in Russia) is that Russia should be the same as us. This is Western hubris. The fact is, that Russia is a different kind of country. Many people simply don’t want ‘democracy’ in the sense that we have it in, say, the UK. For example, (anecdotally), my wife’s friend simply said to me “we don’t want democracy; we are not ready for democracy”. The “we aren’t ready”, I think was polite and self-effacing. The author’s anecdotes apart, here is scholar Peter Kenez:
The same polls show that the great majority of Russians do not believe that they live in a democratic country, and they are not much bothered by this. “If everything is going well,” they see no need for an opposition. 
The speaker in this piece seems to be a provided mouthpiece for anti-Russian propaganda. He says that Putin has changed the constitution “multiple times” in order to stand again. Well; once. He seems to claim that Navalny would win an election if he was able to stand. This is unlikely; (look at the polling). However; there is another aggressive Western information attack in play here. The policy/strategy of the Navalny team is to focus on and gather grievances of the population. When they were able to they went around the country gathering grievances against the existing setup. They accept any grievances. The only actual policy of team Navalny was to get Navalny into power. Their political programme itself is actually rather similar to what happens now with some added plans for an anti-corruption commission, more privatisation of state assets and independency of the judiciary. Plus a plan to reduce immigration from Central Asia. This is why he is so popular with Western elites because he would have opened Russia more to Western financial exploitation. But, the whole electoral scheme just focusses on harnessing opposition to Putin and the existing system, from any quarter, exploiting and fanning grievances. As a Russian student said to me in connection with Navalny: “my family says that a lot of people want to be President”.
That said, in this piece all credit to the anchor for saying the unsayable and mentioning that some people in Eastern Ukraine are, loosely speaking, “pro-Russian”. The speaker from The ‘Henry Jackson Society’ tries his propagandist best to shoot that down but he can only manage an unsupported claim that even if this was true before, it won’t be true now – a claim which can’t stand against much recent mainstream field reporting from Eastern Ukraine which routinely, these days, admits that a significant percentage of people in Eastern Ukraine are ‘pro-Russian’.
- Kenez, Peter. A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to its Legacy (p. 299). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.