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|From a Western perspective Nike Air Max 95 Mens UK Sale , Vladimir Putin's days as president of Russia should be numbered: The ruble has lost more than half its value, the economy is in crisis and his aggression in Ukraine has turned the country into an international pariah.
And yet most Russians see Putin not as the cause, but as the solution.
The situation as seen from a Russian point of view is starkly different from that painted in the West, and it is driven largely by state television's carefully constructed version of reality and the Kremlin's methodical dismantling of every credible political alternative.
As Putin prepares to face his public in a much-anticipated televised news conference, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Thursday found that about 80 percent of Russians still support him.
But it also showed that confidence in the economy is slipping. This is particularly true in Moscow, where people have become accustomed to imported goods and foreign travel Nike Air Max 95 UK Sale , now once again off-limits for many because of the fall of the ruble and Western sanctions over Ukraine.
The poll was conducted between Nov. 22 and Dec. 7, when the ruble was steadily declining. But this week's catastrophic collapse is likely to have a much greater effect on consumer prices and the standard of living.
For Putin, the question is whether he will be able to convince Russians to tighten their belts, and not just for a few months but possibly for years to come.
"The Russian people have a sense that they are under sanctions, they are a fortress under siege," said Maria Lipman Nike Air Max 97 Summit White UK Sale , an independent analyst. "This kind of mentality is disseminated consistently and steadily by Russian television: Who else is there to rely on except Putin? Putin is seen as the savior of the nation, and I think he sees himself in this fashion."
Putin will address his countrymen's concerns over the course of three or four hours at Thursday's news conference. He seems all but certain to send the message that he is in charge and all is fine.
An advertisement for the news conference running on state television shows Putin surrounded by Sochi Olympic athletes, petting a baby tiger and greeting cosmonauts. "We are absolutely capable of doing everything ourselves," he promises the audience.
How Russians view Putin is associated with how they get their news, the poll showed. Those who identified state television as their main source of news are more likely to approve of Putin (84 percent) than those who have other sources (73 percent), while those who tune into the news often also have a more favorable opinion of him.
After becoming president in 2000 Nike Air Max 97 Undefeated UK Sale , Putin benefited from high prices for oil, the mainstay of Russia's economy. In the past decade, Russians saw their living standards rise faster than at any other point in modern history, transforming many average citizens into car owners and globe-trotters for the first time ever.
The suppression of opposition politicians and independent media, widely criticized by outside observers, was tacitly accepted by many as a compromise worth making for economic stability after the roller coaster years of the 1990s.
"I very much support Putin — who else is there to support?" said Valentina Roshupkina Nike Air Max 97 Womens UK Sale , a 79-year-old resident of Gryaz, a town several hours' drive south of Moscow. "The country is moving in the right direction, I believe, because he lifted up the army, he made the government stronger. People started to be a little bit afraid of us."
View galleryIn this Friday, March 20 Nike Air Max 97 Mens UK Sale , 1998 file photo people walk …
In this Friday, March 20, 1998 file photo people walk along Moscow's Red Square with St. Basil C …
Poll respondents were asked whether they would be willing to speak with an AP reporter, and Roshupkina was among the many who agreed.
With the Russian economy buffeted by Western sanctions and the fall in oil prices, Putin has relied even more on his image as a tough leader capable of standing up to the West. He appears to be betting that this will help him weather the economic storm.
So far he's been right: The presidency and the military are the country's most trusted institutions, according to the poll Nike Air Max 97 UK Sale , with three out of four Russians saying they trust the presidency and two out of three expressing faith in the military.
"We've revived the army and that's very important," said Ivan Savenko, a 50-year-old driver in the southern city of Stavropol who also took part in the poll. "For us, the most important thing is the army and then everything else. It's important for us that our country is a power. If we are not a power, we do not exist."
Of those surveyed, 81 percent said they strongly or somewhat approve of the way Putin is handling his job Nike Air Max TN Mens UK Sale , a dramatic increase of more than 20 percentage points from an AP-GfK poll conducted in 2012.
While Russia has become more authoritarian under Putin, the support for him appears genuine. The significant fluctuation in Putin's ratings in recent years also indicates that Russians feel able to respond freely in anonymous surveys about their views on the president. The 81 percent approval rating is only slightly higher statistically than the 74 percent measured during the same time period by the Levada Center, Russia's most respected independent pollster.
Many analysts question, however, whether the high ratings have any significance, given the Kremlin's control over information.
"There is a total Nike Air Max TN Womens UK Sale , effective, monopolistic propaganda campaign, and if there is an information monopoly, how can you talk about ratings?" said Georgy Satarov, a former Kremlin adviser who heads a research institute that studies corruption.
"The thing you have to pay attention to is not the fact that 80 percent support him, but that despite that information monopoly 15 percent don't support him Nike Air Max TN UK Sale ," he said.
Support for Putin soared af
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