pull one's punches

pull one's punches {infml} (to hold back in one's criticism; be less forceful, severe, or violent than one could be; to refrain from deploying all the resources or force at one's disposal; to restrain the force of one's criticisms or actions; lit. to restrain the force of one's blows, esp when deliberately losing after being bribed, etc) — воздержаться от критики; критиковать для видимости; критиковать для проформы; действовать осмотрительно, осторожно; оcторожничать (букв. наносить удары для видимости)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Usually used in the negative. The one's can be replaced with any.
not pull any/your punches (to express disapproval or criticism clearly, without trying to hide anything; speaking truthfully, in an honest way without trying to be kind) — высказываться прямо, без обиняков

Example 1: :... a sharp-tongued critic who doesn’t pull his punches

Example 2: Her image is that of an investigative reporter who doesn't pull any punches. (CALD)

Example 3: The inquiry report doesn't pull any punches in apportioning blame. (LDOCE)

Example 4: 'He wasn’t nice to me. Does he hate me?' ' No, he wasn’t pulling any punches. He was just telling you what he thought was right.'

[pull no punches]

The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:

1931 “Couldn't the critics just pull their punches for a while and help things get started along Broadway?”—San Mateo Times (California)

1932 “Reed did not pull his punches in any respect. He pictured Mr. Hoover as the one primarily responsible for deflation of the farmer after the war.”—Mansfield News (Ohio)

1939 “Either because Vidor ‘pulled his punches’ at the revolution or because . . . he was confused.”—The Rise of American Film by L. Jacobs

1946 “He pulls no punches. Tunes he doesn't like are tagged ‘smelodies’ and he has a ‘best smeller list.’

1977 “The film pulls all its political punches settling instead for sentimental narrative.”—Time Out, 28 January

2002 “Nicola was certainly pulling no punches with her interpretation of her weaknesses.”—The Rise of the Player Manager, by Auger & Palmer

2007 “But he {Tony Blair} ‘faltered and pulled his punches’ and in effect told the President: ‘You know, George {Bush junior}, whatever you decide to do, I'll be with you.’”—The Independent (London)

2012 “Mitt Romney pulled no punches today. Jan Crawford reports he told black leaders President Obama has let them down.”—CBS Evening News

Boxers are said to pull their punches when they use less force than capable of, hold back from using all ones strength. When a boxer ‘pulls his punches’ he pulls back during a punch just before the full force of the blow is felt, so landing a lighter blow than usual on his opponent – to hit less hard than one can.

The figurative form of the expression means to use less force than one is capable of exerting; to be cautious, gentle, lenient, or restrained, especially in one’s criticism or reactions. (American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Oxford English Dictionary, Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase & Fable, and Allen’s Dictionary of English Phrases)