Russians in Paris fear retaliation for war, others defiant – POLITICO

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PARIS – From Lenin to Turgenev, Paris has been the adopted home of countless famous Russians, often drawn to the city’s free and revolutionary spirit.

But since Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the City of Light has become hostile territory for Russian residents.

Whether or not they support Russian President Vladimir Putin, many admit that the war in Ukraine has become an increasingly sensitive issue in France, and they fear being the target of retaliation as anti-Russian sentiment mounts.

“There are people here who are ashamed to be Russians,” said Irina Krivova, the bureau’s administrator Alye Parusa French-Russian school in Paris. “But people must be careful not to confuse Russia, Russian culture and Russian leaders.”

Last week, an unidentified person praised one Molotow cocktail at the gates of the Russian House of Science and Culture, an important cultural institution in the French capital that promotes Franco-Russian relations. There were no injuries, but the incident asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to “demand that the French authorities provide adequate security for our official institutions”.

A few days earlier, anti-Putin graffiti, including calling the Russian leader a “pig,” covered a wall of the opulent, Kremlin-sponsored Russian Cathedrale de la Sainte-Trinité in central Paris. On Monday, a sign at the building’s main entrance said that events at the church and cultural center were “temporarily suspended for administrative reasons,” although a French police car was stationed nearby and a security guard admitted it was “because of the war.” was closed [in Ukraine].”

Such acts of vandalism have unnerved many Russian citizens in a country that has traditionally been particularly welcoming after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Today, the Russian consulate estimates that up to 200,000 Russians live in France, including “tens of thousands” in Paris – making it one of the largest Russian diasporas in Western Europe.

There are also countless associations promoting relations between France and Russia, including the Friends of Leo Tolstoy and the Franco-Russian Lawyers Association. Paul Leboulanger, a former journalism student, even created a website with the name “L’Ours Magazine” – The Bear – with profiles of Russians in France and cultural events related to Russia to “show what Russians are doing in France” and “to please all the many people in France who are interested in Russia,” he said .

Many in this Russian diaspora, including shopkeepers and the city’s Russian Orthodox community, admit they have had to defend themselves against insults, often aimed at Putin. Those who support the Russian president say they suffer from a persistent misunderstanding among both French and Russians who are victims of Western disinformation.

“Since the first day of the war I’ve been taking medication to calm my nerves,” Marina said. who owns La Troika Russian grocery store. “This war doesn’t reflect the Russian nation, it’s not Russian literature, it’s a crazy person doing that,” she said through tears.

Marina said a “Frenchman” came into her shop days after the war began and said she “should be ashamed of being Russian”. She said she replied that she was “not for Putin and he ended up apologizing”.

“Both my mother and grandmother were born in Kharkiv,” she continued, referring to the eastern Ukrainian city that has been repeatedly shelled by Russian forces. “We, Russians and Ukrainians, are all friends,” she added.

Additional security

After reading about the anti-Putin graffiti on the Russian Cathedral, Nicolas Lopoukhine ordered a security guard to stand guard outside the Russian Orthodox Church of Notre Dame de la Dormition in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, near Paris, where he works as Treasurer. Lopoukhine, who is also treasurer of the Archbishop’s Office of the Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, later dismissed the guard as there was “no evidence of hostilities against us,” he said.

But he acknowledged that the war in Ukraine has become “a sensitive issue” for his community. “There are different sensitivities in the archbishop’s palace,” Lopoukhine said. “Our Archbishop rose up against the war… but we also have people who are very attached to the Russian nation, the Russian President and the Russian Patriarch [the head of the Russian Orthodox church].”

The war also makes life uncomfortable for those who support Putin and those who work to promote Russian culture in France.

Anna Kouzin, a 65-year-old antiquarian, defends Putin and says the French are “victims of Western disinformation”.

“I’m disappointed, what I’m hearing here on TV are lies,” said Kouzin. “The war is between Russia and the United States,” and “Ukraine depends on the United States,” adding that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “does whatever the United States asks of him.”

But her views, she said, caused such uneasiness and misunderstanding that she gave up her job for a while to avoid arguments with her colleagues.

“A colleague told me that Putin is Hitler, it’s like fascism, Russia is guilty,” said Kouzin. “I have decided not to work for two months.” Russians in Paris fear retaliation for war, others defiant - POLITICO

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