In Ukraine, many Russians have no doubt: It’s America’s fault

MOSCOW – After visiting Moscow’s marble-clad, Great Victory museum, dedicated to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, two visitors concluded that today’s situation is not must be all: Russia is under attack again.

Olga A. Petrova, a retired person, said: “The US is very eager to start this war, when it comes to the simmering conflict between Russia and the West over Ukraine. “NATO wants to send troops to our border, they look for our weak points and they find Ukraine,” she said, adding that the Americans “don’t even know where Ukraine is on the map.”

Ms. Petrova’s belief that the United States is inciting war between Russia and Ukraine reflects the thoughts of many Russians, including her traveling companion, Tamara N. Ivanova, who watches two major talk shows on the radios. the country’s state television channel.

It’s a message that the Kremlin’s propaganda machine hits home every day.

Russians argue over a range of domestic issues, like the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic or soaring inflation. Others, fed up with the Kremlin’s manipulation of the news media, have just opted out. But there’s one thing many seem to agree on with President Vladimir Putin: If war breaks out, it will be the fault of the Americans.

Levada Center, one of the few independent probes in Russia, speak that 50% of Russians see the United States and NATO as the cause of rising tensions. Less than 5% blame the Kremlin.

Ms. Ivanova said she could clearly see how people in Ukraine and the West “have been brainwashed”. Her steadfast support for the Kremlin line is not surprising, given that retirees like her are at the core of President Vladimir V. Putin’s establishment.

Over the years, a small segment of younger, mostly urbanites may have taken to the streets to protest, but dissenting voices have been muffled by a crackdown on protests, the media Independent media and human rights groups started taking it seriously a year ago. Scores of young activists were detained, expulsion from universities and put out of the country.

In response, Sergei Belanovsky, a sociologist who studies public opinion, said many Russians, including the country’s youth, have just chosen not to follow the news.

Yana Yakushkina, a 20-year-old medical student, seems to embody that finding.

Attending a retrospective in an exhibition hall across from the Kremlin about the life and career of Viktor Tsoi, a famous Russian rock musician, she allows herself not to care much about politics, and that “all talk about war is empty. ” With a shrug, she added, “No one can explain this never-ending conflict.”

Darya Rokysheva, 19, a applied mathematics student who attended the exhibition, said that she also doesn’t follow politics closely and that she believes conflicts happen “between governments, not between countries”.

Mr. Belanovsky said that feeling alienated from the news and the problems facing the country is common among Russians.

“This crisis is seen by some as the fringes of consciousness – something incomprehensible is happening to them,” he said. “They don’t want to go into it, and they think there’s no point in it anyway.”

However, even among those who may oppose the Kremlin on one domestic policy or another, Belanovsky added, when it comes to Ukraine and its relations with the West, many share the same question. Putin’s story of Russia as a besieged fortress.

Aleksei Izotov, 45 years old, an IT entrepreneur, is one of them. He said that although he abhors systemic corruption in Russia and the fact that Mr. Putin is unwilling to relinquish power, when it comes to foreign policy, the president is “doing everything right”.

He added: “I love it, and I think I share most people’s views.”

Mr. Izotov said he does not watch state television, preferring to get his news from the internet, where outlets with small but loyal fan bases can still resist the Kremlin line. However, he shared the view that the current Ukraine crisis was provoked by the United States and NATO.

“America pursues its geopolitical goals in the post-Soviet space, it wants to divide Russia and the post-Soviet countries,” he said, wearing a black sweater emblazoned with Tsoi’s signature slogan. “We need change!”

Mr. Izotov said he sympathizes with Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Aleksei A. Navalny, who was jailed last year for violating parole while leaving the country. Mr. Navalny left to seek treatment for the poisoning after Germany and other Western nations suggested it was a government assassination plot.

However, Mr. Izotov is serious about Mr. Navalny’s chance to change the existing order, believing that Mr. Putin will rule Russia until he dies and will protect the friends he holds. permission.

Even then, Mr. Izotov said he couldn’t say “is the current president the devil or the enemy.”

Many Russians share the belief that they are incapable of influencing events, sociologist Grigory Yudin recently told Ekho Moskvy, a state-owned but liberal-leaning radio station. The lack of public outcry is in stark contrast to the reaction in 2014, after Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

Back then, about 50,000 people took to the streets to protest military action in Moscow. Now even an online petition in circulation since January 30 has received only 5,000 signatures.

“Russian citizens are becoming hostages to the adventurism that dominates the course of Russian foreign policy,” the petition’s authors, prominent Russian intellectuals, write.

“But no one asked Russian citizens,” they added. “There is no public discussion. There is only one view presented on state television, and that is the view of those who support the war.”

Ivan Preobrazhensky, an independent political analyst, says that Russian apathy, the belief in this case that war is inevitable, has been reinforced by years of political oppression.

“Russian society doesn’t want war, but the biggest part of it is also inevitably inevitable,” he said in an interview. With each episode of tension over Ukraine, he added, “the Russian government makes people think of war as common sense.”

They are people like Sergei Ryzhkov, who works in the construction industry, who says he doesn’t mind the tension in Ukraine.

“I don’t care,” he said. “It’s my opinion that these are just political rallies.”

However, according to the sociologist Belanovsky, when it comes to a real war with real armaments and certainly body bags, those attitudes can change.

“I think such news will certainly reach non-political people,” he said. “And the reaction will mostly be negative.”

Arseny Filippov, 22, said he has felt the consequences of Russia’s suffering. “Before these events, it was affordable to travel to Europe, and then the ruble collapsed,” he said. An architect, Mr. Filippov said that he gets his news from independent sources online and from foreign news agencies.

He said he could not understand why, since the start of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine in 2014, the Kremlin has taken steps such as annexing Crimea “provided everything is to the detriment of the country and the economy.” How’s the economics of it?”

He said that although he initially refused to believe that a war with Ukraine was inevitable, he is now not so sure, after two tense months.

“I very much hope that doesn’t happen,” he said.

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/world/europe/russia-public-opinion-ukraine-us-nato.html In Ukraine, many Russians have no doubt: It’s America’s fault

Fry Electronics Team

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