In the run-up to the presidential elections Vladimir Putin compared the campaign to Russia’s 1812 battle for Moscow against Napoleon, quoting from a classic poem to ask people to support him. But the 2012 battle for Moscow appears to have been lost by Putin’s team, with the Kremlin now sitting in a city where the majority of people voted against him in Sunday’s presidential vote. Official polling figures in Moscow said that Putin was supported by less than 47 percent of the 4.3 million people who voted in the Russian capital Sunday. A tally taken down by independent monitors in Moscow and sent in from polling stations to the observers group Golos — which alleged mass violations — gives an even lower figure of 45 percent for Putin.
By contrast, Putin won 63.6 percent nationwide according to official figures, with his weakness in Moscow compensated by strong support in central Russia and credibility-busting ratings well into the 90s in the Caucasus. The 16-point difference between support for Putin nationwide and in Moscow is a “rift that will not go away,” said Maria Lipman of the Moscow Carnegie Centre. “It will get deeper and deeper and will be a problem for the legitimacy of Putin’s authority.”The capital — home to eight percent of the country’s population — also has the greatest concentration of Russia’s fast expanding middle class who have embraced the Internet and been at the forefront of the anti-Putin protest movement.
Speaking to supporters packed into Moscow’s largest stadium two weeks ago, Putin sought inspiration from a work by romantic poet Mikhail Lermontov which chronicles Russia’s defence of Moscow from French “infidels”. “How can we not think back to Lermontov and his heroes… who pledged allegiance to the Motherland before the battle for Moscow and dreamed of dying for it?” Putin asked.