MOSCOW – From controlling the media to stoking nationalism, Russian President Vladimir Putin has always known how to keep his approval ratings high. But Russians’ lives are not getting any better, especially after the latest round of Western economic sanctions — and Putin’s declining approval rating shows it.
In April, the ruble was tumbling, owing partly to the sanctions imposed in response to the Kremlin’s alleged poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil. Then, in June, just as the Russia-hosted World Cup was getting underway, the government proposed increasing the retirement age from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women, prompting an immediate public backlash. The result was a sharp 15-point decline in the approval rating of the government overall — the largest decline of Putin’s 18-year rule.