Russian protesters struggle to understand Ukraine war: ‘We didn’t choose this’

“It’s always safer to stand with others … to look over your shoulder, in case you need to run,” says Tasya, who asked that her last name not be used for safety. her whole. At some point, Tasya says her friends left the protest to go home or elsewhere to warm up, leaving her standing alone in the street.

“Then a group of policemen walked past me … and suddenly one of them looked at me and then they turned around and walked towards me and detained me,” she said of the May 24 protest. Two.

Protests are continuing across Russia as young citizens, along with middle-aged and even retired people, take to the streets to speak out against a military conflict led by their President order – a decision in which, according to them, they have no say.

Now, they are finding their voices. However, Russian authorities are intent on preventing any public dissent against the attack on Ukraine. Police stopped the demonstrations almost as quickly as they appeared, dragging some protesters away and attacking others.

Police in St.Petersburg arrested at least 350 anti-war protesters on Wednesday, bringing the total number of protesters detained or arrested to 7,624 since the invasion began, according to an organization independent organization that monitors human rights abuses in Russia.

Opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military operations in Ukraine, while still limited, comes from a number of unexpected places.

One of Russia’s richest men, billionaire businessman Mikhail Fridman, who was born in Ukraine, called the violence a “tragedy”, adding “war can never be the answer” – but he stop directly criticizing Putin, according to the Financial Times.

“If I make any political statements that are unacceptable in Russia, it will have very clear implications for the company, for our customers, for our creditors. me, to our stakeholders,” said Fridman.

Russian businessman, Alfa-Group co-founder Mikhail Fridman in Moscow, September 2019.
Another tycoon, Oleg Deripaska, posted on his Telegram channel: “Peace is very important! Talks should start as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, members of Russia’s “intellectual world” – academics, writers, journalists and others – have issued calls to publicly criticize the war, including an “open letter”. ” Rarely sent to Putin signed by 1,200 students, faculty and staff of MGIMO University. The Moscow State Institute of International Relations, affiliated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, produces most of the elite employees of the Russian government and foreign service.

The signatories declared they were “resolutely opposed to the military actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.”

The letter reads: “We consider it morally unacceptable to stand on the sidelines and remain silent when people are dying in a neighboring country. They are dying through the fault of those who love them. prefer weapons to peaceful diplomacy.”

The letter was deeply personal, with the signers explaining: “Many of us have friends and relatives living in territories that are conducting military operations. But war is not just about war. come to them, war has come to each of us, and our children and grandchildren will feel the consequences.Many future generations of diplomats will have to rebuild trust in the country. Russia and good relations with neighboring countries have been lost.”

A representative for MGIMO did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The Moscow State Institute of International Relations, commonly abbreviated as MGIMO, is an academic institution run by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Publicly, Russian diplomats have had close ties to the Kremlin, although the head of the Russian delegation to the United Nations meeting on climate change, Oleg Anisimov, reportedly apologizing for the military operation, According to The Washington Post“on behalf of all the Russians who failed to stop this conflict”, adding that “those who know what is going on do not find any justification for the attack.”

But in reality, many Russians are completely unaware of what is happening in Ukraine. State-controlled television has barely reported Russian bombing and shelling in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, focusing instead on so-called “populists”. ethnic” and “neo-fascist”.

Ukraine wants Russia to be cut off from the global internet.  Experts say it's a risky idea
About a week after Russian forces entered Ukraine, many Russians are still grasping the fact that war is indeed happening. The United States and other Western officials have been warning of the coming attack for weeks, but Russian state media, especially television programs, have mocked those claims, arguing that Moscow is not intends to take any military action against Kyiv. In a CNN poll completed before the invasion began Only 13% of Russians think a Russian attack is likely, and two-thirds (65%) expect a peaceful end to tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

But young Russians like Arina, 25, who lives in Moscow, don’t watch TV – she says she hasn’t watched it in seven years. She goes on the internet, reads blogs and listens to vloggers. She has not participated in any protests yet, but she has seen young people on the streets participating in “silent protests”, sticking “No War” signs on their backpacks or bags.

She is also having trouble understanding why the war in Ukraine happened and what it will mean for her life as a young Russian.

“It’s very difficult to predict anything, of course, the situation is horrible,” said Arina, who asked CNN to use only her name for her safety. “Among my friends, there is a lot of anxiety about the future, a lot of fear, because we don’t know how it will affect us.”

Firefighters work on a building after a bomb attack on the town of Chuguiv, eastern Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

But Arina’s mother sees it completely differently: “My mother believes everything she sees on TV,” Arina said.

“She believes it is a necessary measure by Putin because there are many weapons surrounding the country … there is a threat from the West, that’s why Putin does this.”

Arina said she has even seen tutorials in the Russian online magazine for students, Doxa, that suggest how young Russians can talk to their parents and others about the war in Ukraine. “We understand how painful it can be when your parents, friends, co-workers, grandfathers and grandmothers become supporters of war,” it wrote.

“So we decided to prepare a guide on how to talk about the war with those who justify it. In our guide you will find answers to 17 of the most common arguments claimed. the most common and often heard transmission in wars,” it said.

Arina read it at the right time. On February 28, the magazine reported that the Russian government agency that oversees the media, IT and mass media had asked Doxa to remove this guide from its website.

China asks Russia to delay its invasion of Ukraine until after the Olympics, Western information says

Arina said that she and her mother “had a very heated argument.”

“She just doesn’t accept my position and thinks I’m a Western relative, that I don’t understand anything. She doesn’t believe what I say, I don’t believe what she says… I have a lot of different sources of information: I get everything from the independent media, most of which have long been blocked in Russia, and she watches TV.”

When Arina and friends followed news about Ukraine on social media, they saw many people in the West protesting Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. The Russians have opposite reactions, she said.

“The first thing is, everybody says, ‘Yes, we should be embarrassed.’ The second sentence is, ‘No, let’s not be ashamed of ourselves and don’t pin ourselves for decisions that are not ours to make.’

But both sides agree on one thing, Arina said: They want the international community to know that “those people aren’t their President, and we didn’t choose this.”

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