As a rule, economic sanctions are designed to change government's policy through punishment for its people. However, in the case of Russia, the West managed to punish the people, but, at the same time, it failed to change the aggressive policy chosen by President Putin at the Donbas, Les Echos writes.
As the author recalls, a truce in the Donbas was not achieved, and the shelling in Mariupol killed a lot of people. Putin, in his turn, "does not even bother" to refute accusations of supporting the militants. At the same time, the Russian economy goes into crisis due to sanctions and oil prices fall.
Despite it all, Putin's rating is rising. The author of the article explains this "apparent paradox" by the "strong nationalist feeling" of the Russians who remember that Kyiv was the capital of the Russian state, but they forget that the Ukrainians had fought for their independence for centuries. Also, it can be explained by constant disinformation stating that the Ukrainian army is a "NATO legion" and justifying the preservation of the buffer zone.
As the author notes, the success of the pro-Russian separatists is essential to the popularity of Putin and a key to his power. Even rigged polls, if any were really conducted, bring some benefit, as they demonstrate how weak the Russian opposition is and that it has no chance to implement its plans.
The journalist calls Putin's decision to freeze prices for vodka shortly before the New Year another reason for his popularity, Les Echos writes ironically.
According to a recent study conducted by the Russian sociological service, the large majority of people in Russia continues to support Putin's policy.