Asked what Russians now think about the war in Ukraine: some of the answers are surprising

This week, as the half-year anniversary of that war approaches, some Russians in and around Moscow expressed support for what the Kremlin says is a “special military operation” in their pro-Western neighbor, while others lamented the suffering the war has caused.

But everyone unanimously hoped that the hostilities would soon end.

“I am very sad for the Ukrainians. They are suffering for nothing, they haven’t done anything wrong,” Dmitriy Romanenka, a 35-year-old IT specialist met in the center of Moscow, told the AFP news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops to Ukraine on February 24 turned the lives of many Russians upside down.

Although the country’s economy has fared better than many expected after the West imposed what it sees as crippling sanctions, many ordinary Russians have been hit hard by the withdrawal of foreign companies and soaring inflation.

Travel and flight restrictions have cut them off from the rest of the world, leaving many in the country feeling very isolated.

In Moscow, it is impossible not to notice the signs of public support for Russia’s actions. Stickers with the letter “Z” – the symbol of Russian forces fighting in Ukraine – are pasted on the windows of some cars.

But in the center of the Russian capital, which is generally considered less conservative than other parts of the country, most residents interviewed by AFP were critical of the conflict and its consequences.

“Everyone Suffers”

Romanenko, who wears a thick beard and is covered in tattoos on his arms and neck, told reporters that the start of the military campaign in Ukraine had deprived him of his livelihood in Russia.

“She destroyed everything I did, my whole business. I was a budding entrepreneur and all my eight projects were destroyed,” he said.

Valentina Bjalik, an 83-year-old retired art critic walking nearby in a colorful patterned dress and white hat, agreed that “everything has changed.”

“We belong to a generation whose childhood was spent during the war. And it is very sad that our old age also goes through the war, she said. “Even if we live far from military operations, we feel a deep sadness for the people who die, no matter what their nationality.”

According to V. Bjalik, it is extremely difficult to survive Russian isolation.

“The very fact that a huge country is now isolated, that everyone hates this country, is very painful for us,” said the pensioner.

Dmitriy Nalivaika, a 34-year-old waiter with a ribbon in the colors of the Russian flag attached to his backpack, said it was “wrong” that ordinary people were being drawn into the conflict.

“Let the politicians fight for themselves, not the people who suffer from all this. Everyone is suffering,” he said.

However, many Russians strongly support this military campaign. Many of them participated in the recent military forum held on the outskirts of the capital, where the country’s latest military equipment was displayed.

“Everything will be fine”

Vladimir Kosovas, 33, and his 55-year-old mother Olga, both wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the letter “Z”, walking by the row of tanks on display said it was Russia’s duty to support pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.

“We have to help them, even at the cost of our lives,” the woman said. Her son condemned “nationalism” in Ukraine and “the most dangerous threat of our time”.

“It was necessary,” another 35-year-old IT specialist, Mikhail Nikitin, said at the forum. “Sooner or later we will still win and everything will be fine.”

Although the conflict has dragged on much longer than many expected, those who support Russian military action say they have no doubts about its outcome.

“I think our people will win in the end. Peace will be restored between Russia and Ukraine, because we have been friendly countries all our lives,” said Nadezhda Josan, the 35-year-old manager of a cleaning company who came to the forum.

“We hope that everything will be over soon. And everything will be fine,” she added.

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