Putin asks media to help prevent turmoil in Russia
With parliamentary elections in September, and a battered (but resilient) economy, Putin is clearly concerned about western plans to stir up trouble in Russia.
Speaking at a media forum in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Putin asked members of the Russian press to stay diligent against efforts to divide and weaken Russia:
It is symbolic that we gather here in St. Petersburg again. Why? [Because] St. Petersburg, or Leningrad, has been named the City of Three Revolutions. I hope that the result of your efforts will be not a fourth revolution but, on the contrary, you will work honestly and openly and contribute to the natural, correct and just balance of interests in our society.
In February, Putin warned the Federal Security Service (FSB) that "ill-wishers abroad are preparing for [Russia's parliamentary elections]".
Putin has good reasons to expect trouble. An investigation has revealed that the 2012 anti-Putin protests received financial backing from the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy. As Bloomberg reported last month, a Russian opposition leader who helped organize the protests:
received more than $35,000 from the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy in 2013 and 2014 to distribute to families of protesters convicted of attacking police during the Bolotnaya Square protest in the Russian capital.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has documented ties to the CIA and played a key role in Ukraine's 2014 coup. Putin knows what's up: Russia recently adopted a new law which requires NED and other "NGOs" to register as foreign agents.
But the threat of foreign meddling in Russia still remains.
Of course, western pundits have been gloating about Putin's inevitable downfall for as long as anyone can remember. But as the Panama Papers "scandal" illustrates, western attempts to undermine Putin are becoming increasingly desperate. How far they are willing to go in order to import Maidan-like chaos to Russia is an open question.