From Nezavisimaya gazeta, Jan. 16, 2024, p. 2. Complete text:

Russian Security Council deputy chairman Dmitry Medvedev caused quite a stir with several statements he made about the Ukraine conflict both before and after the New Year’s holidays. For example, the former Russian president and ex-prime minister returned to the topic of nuclear weapons on his Telegram channel. According to him, if Kiev wants to destroy missile launchers on Russian territory using missiles from the West, then this cannot be regarded as the right to self-defense. “These are direct and obvious grounds for us to use nuclear weapons against such a state,” Medvedev wrote. At a meeting of the military-industrial complex working group on monitoring the production of arms, special military equipment and weapons of destruction, he said that “various carriers with various payloads, except for nuclear payloads” have been used to strike military sites in Ukraine. “For now,” he added.

Before the new year, Medvedev took to Telegram again to comment on possible talks with the Kiev government. He put the word “talks” in quotation marks and wrote that they could be held “right up until the complete defeat and surrender of the Banderovites [Reference to Stepan Bandera, 1908-1959, a Ukrainian revolutionary and nationalist leader, who fought for the country’s independence from the Soviet Union. – Trans.] of the North Atlantic alliance. The removal of the ruling Banderovite regime is clearly an undeclared but essential and inevitable goal that must and will be achieved,” he said. “Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Nikolayev and Kiev are Russian cities, like many others that are temporarily occupied,” he added.

We can say that this is the typical tone and content of Dmitry Medvedev’s statements over the past few years. Statements made by [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, [Russian Defense Minister] Sergei Shoigu, [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov and many other senior officials are quite restrained by comparison. Putin, for example, always emphasizes that Kiev rejected talks – under pressure from the US – and that Moscow is prepared for them, just under its own conditions. But the Russian president has never said anything about a “temporarily occupied Kiev” and has not called for moving deeper into Ukrainian territory.

We could assume that Dmitry Medvedev is simply expressing his own personal opinion. But he is not a private citizen: He holds government positions and is being given new, important roles. His public statements probably reflect one of the points of view within the ruling elite. It could be that this point of view is popular within these circles, and the president and ministers just aren’t expressing it; therefore, the authorities (it’s hard to say who exactly) have chosen a different means of testing and floating such uncompromising discourse with the public.

Medvedev’s transformation from a moderate liberal to a hawk is still surprising and not completely clear. If he was chosen collectively for this role, that is even more strange, because he has an established reputation. We can assume that the political potential of an uncompromising approach is being tested through the Security Council deputy head. The question is whether the public will be convinced by this new image of Medvedev.

Approval ratings from the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion could provide a partial answer to such questions. They generally reflect attempts to boost politicians and parties, as was the case with Noviye lyudi [New People] before the 2021 State Duma elections [see Vol. 73, No. 38‑38, pp. 3‑6]. The last such confidence and no-confidence ratings included Putin, Lavrov, Shoigu, [Russian] Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, leaders of parliamentary parties, the half-forgotten [2018 Russian Federation Communist Party presidential candidate] Pavel Grudinin, [leader of the For New Socialism movement] Nikolai Platoshkin, [opposition politician] Nikolai Bondarenko and even one person designated a foreign agent and extremist. Dmitry Medvedev is not on this list. The ex-president and ex-prime minister is, in essence, making political statements that could be quite popular with the electorate. These are headline-making statements. But for some reason, Medvedev is not viewed as a relevant politician in polls. That could just be for now, though.