CIA Director Bill Burns testified to the US House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that “something like 13 or 14,000” Russian citizens have been arrested for protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Burns said the current opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin among Russian citizens “is not a small thing” but noted the prevalence of state-run media will make it difficult for popular dissent to build quickly.
“You see funerals in Russia of, you know, young Russian soldiers who were killed in Ukraine coming home and that clearly is going to have an impact over time. You also see, in relatively small numbers, but a lot of very courageous Russians out on the street protesting,” he said.
“Something like 13 or 14,000 have been arrested since then, which is not a small thing in a deeply repressive country like Russia,” Burns added.
Burns said the US will monitor Putin’s domestic popularity as the war in Ukraine continues but cautioned that Putin’s control of the media will help stave him stave off some popular unrest.
“In an environment in which the Russian state media dominates what a lot of people hear about what’s going on in Ukraine, it’s going to take time, I think, for people to absorb the consequences of the choices that (Putin’s) made personally,” Burns said.