The party of war has been very vocal since April, when it became clear that the Russian Army was unable to conquer Kyiv and overthrow the Zelensky government. Moscow’s more modest goal — conquering the Donbas and securing a land bridge to annexed Crimea — appeared to be an intolerable retrenchment. Throughout, Russia’s hawks have benefited from an unexpected sounding board: the many Telegram channels, some of which have up to one million followers, run by war journalists embedded with the Russian Army. In a stream of constant commentary, the channels criticize the government’s indecisiveness and call for a full-scale conquest of Ukraine and the mass mobilization of the Russian population.

Through the summer, the level of criticism was manageable for the regime. But things began to change in August, when Darya Dugina, the daughter of one of Russia’s best-known imperial ideologists, Alexander Dugin, was assassinated in Moscow. The perpetrators and purpose of the attack are unknown. But the effect was clear. By bringing the conflict into one of the capital’s fanciest neighborhoods, the murder confirmed the hawks’ dim view of the war effort. Since Ms. Dugina’s death, the party of war has been using her “martyrdom” to renew calls for a full-scale war in overtly eschatological tones.

The military reversal of recent weeks has played into their hands. The infamous Chechen head of state, Ramzan Kadyrov, has called for “self-mobilization,” inviting regional elites to recruit at least 1,000 citizens each, raising about 85,000 new troops in total. The Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, another key figure on the nationalist right, called for a “maximum mobilization of forces and resources” and for the Kremlin to refer to the conflict as a war, rather than a “special operation.” And Yevgeny Prigozhin, the de facto head of a shadowy mercenary outfit known as the Wagner Group, has been recruiting prisoners to be sent to the front.

Their criticism has clearly cut through. While stopping short of mass conscription, Mr. Putin’s “partial mobilization,” as he put it, of some 300,000 troops is a major boost for the party of war. Likewise, plans to hold referendums in Ukraine’s occupied territories — Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, Kherson and Zaporizka in the south — are designed to redraw the terms of the conflict, in ways congenial to the president’s hawkish critics. There are signs too that Mr. Putin may escalate domestically, turning even more to repression.