Inside Russia, Putin’s war in Ukraine draws battle lines

In the village of Kamenka in southern Russia’s Rostov region, near the Ukrainian border, 47-year-old Alexei Safonov was horrified by the news that Russia began its offensive last week. Then he started working as the chief engineer at an ice rink and was nauseous to find his colleagues partying.

“It’s time to show what we can do to these ‘Nazis,’ so it’s time to start that process,” he said, referring to Putin’s claim that he is “disarming” Ukraine and its leadership. “It made me really depressed and depressed. The people around me are excited about it. When I look at them, I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

That night, he wrote a sad post on social media, lamenting the “horror and shame” of a war that “would be disastrous.” It initially received 19 comments, most of them attacking him. A friend, a local policeman, warned him not to delete it, but he refused.

At work the next day, the general manager of the complex broke into, shouted and swears at Safonov.

He said, “Either you remove this post or we don’t need people like you here.” He told me to sign a letter of resignation, but I packed my bags and left.”

Later, three policemen armed with automatic rifles came to his house, arrested him and accused him of showing disrespect for society and the Russian Federation. He faces court on Friday and fears the authorities may fabricate a more serious charge.

The seismic effect of the war began to appear on many Russians, deepening these divisions in society. State TV presenters tell viewers that the sanctions prove that the West hates Russians.

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Europe’s airspace closed, toxic Russian brand now shunned in sports, chess, ice hockey, soccer, auto racing, art galleries, Harley-Davidson, Disney, Batman, Eurovision, luxury car companies, and Maersk Shipping Line , the International Olympic Committee, the major oil companies, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund and many more.

The cascading effect was rapid. Google has banned YouTube channels connected to state-run RT and Sputnik media. Even the leaders of the far-right in Europe and the strongmen of Central and Eastern Europe rejected this. The ruble collapsed and the central bank stopped trading for two days as Putin banned Russians from depositing foreign exchange into accounts or sending it abroad.

When Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stood up to speak at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday, nearly all the delegates stood up and left the room. When senior official Vyacheslav Volodin returned home from an official trip over the weekend, his plane was removed from the airspace of Sweden and Norway.

To be fair, outside of liberal circles, public criticism is still relatively little in a country where dissent is not tolerated. However, it included a few powerful oligarchs, although they had little or no influence over Putin.

Billionaire industrialist Oleg Deripaska has called for peace “as soon as possible” on the Telegram messaging app. Ukrainian-born magnate Mikhail Fridman wrote a letter to staff at LetterOne, first reported in the Financial Times, saying that war could never be the solution.

State TV presenter Ivan Urgant posted a black square on his Instagram page on the day of the invasion, along with the words “Fear and pain. No to war.” His show was canceled the next day, and it’s not clear that it will be broadcast again.

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Even the daughter of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov posted a black banner on social media that read “No to war”, although she quickly deleted it.

Anissa my condolencesMavic, the CEO of Mavic that has ties to RT and one of Putin’s strongest advocates in years, announced Tuesday that it had “cut all ties with RT,” posting a black banner on Twitter that read, “Russia without Putin.”

Non-political people felt the need to clarify their opposition. Peter Svidler, a Russian chess expert, usually tweets about chess, Wordle, and dogs. But he wrote last week that it is impossible to remain silent. He wrote “No to War”.

“Let’s at least say a few things live. I don’t agree with the war my country is fighting in Ukraine. I don’t think Ukraine, or the Ukrainian people, are my enemies, or anyone’s enemies.” 24 chess Stream.

Nearly 6,500 protesters have been arrested in dozens of cities since the invasion, according to rights group OVD-Info. Psychiatrists, doctors, architects, journalists, actors, historians, computer programmers, filmmakers, Orthodox priests, and others signed open letters protesting the war.

Ivan Zhdanov, director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, headed by imprisoned dissident Alexei, said that if Putin did not change course, Russia “will take its place as an aggressor and evil country, a country that will bear responsibility for its crimes for generations.” Navalny. Zhdanov spoke in a video urging a national campaign against disinformation.

But with Russia’s economy under severe pressure from sanctions, Russian officials have ramped up their rhetoric and tightened their grip.

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In a tweet published by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday, its spokeswoman Maria Zakharova questioned whether the “de-Nazification process in Germany after the end of World War II” was really completed, commenting on Germany’s decision to send weapons to Ukraine.

And MP Andrei Klimov called for accusations of treason to be brought against those who “cooperated with foreign centers hostile to Russia, which clearly harms our national security.”

The older generation of Russians who watch state television from the West fear and admire Putin for the stability he brought after the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. But the ability to predict is gone.

Ordinary Russians on low incomes would be hit hardest, said ice rink engineer Safonov, but the wealthy elites “will be fine as usual,” adding, “They’ll probably be a little upset but not too much, I’m sure.”

“For Russia, this means that we will go back to the caves,” he said. “I think it’s like the end for Russia.”

Natasha Abakumova contributed to this report.

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