November 30, 2022

Russians grow more critical as Putin’s military operation drags on and sanctions take a toll

6 min read



Moscow
CNN

November and December are known as the most depressing months in Moscow. The days are short and dark, and the weather is cold and wet enough to be outside a lot but still too warm and rainy to enjoy a real Russian winter.

This year, the sight of closed shops on many streets of the capital has added to the sense of gloom, as businesses face difficulties. Economic decline In response to massive Western sanctions War in UkraineWhat Russian officials still call a “special military operation.”

Lisa, 34, declined to give her last name, saying she is a film producer. “The planning horizon is as short as ever. People have no idea what could happen tomorrow or a year from now.

While most store shelves remain well-stocked, Western products are becoming increasingly scarce and very expensive, further increasing prices that are already hurting many Russian households.

“Familiar things disappear, from toilet paper and Coca-Cola to clothes,” Lisa said.

“Of course, you can get used to all that, it’s not the worst thing,” he said. But he also criticized Western governments and companies that have abandoned the Russian market in response to the attack on Ukraine. “I don’t really know how it helps to resolve the conflict, because it affects the general public, not the decision makers,” Lisa said.

A woman pushes her trolley with purchases and looks at an empty shop window in a mall on November 18, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.

Some economists believe Russia will face growing economic hardship and a population that will increase criticism of “special military operations” amid mounting defeats, as seen in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, where A determined Ukrainian offensive had forced a Russian withdrawal.

Sergei Zavronkov, a senior researcher at the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, says the mood is more fragile than ever, thanks to “both the economic cost and dissatisfaction with the unresolved issue” of the Kremlin’s expectations. .

“We had to win. The authorities promised to capture Kyiv in three days but as we see, it turned out to be foolish,” he told CNN.

“In his speech on February 24, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin said that military operations would be carried out only by professional soldiers. But in September a partial mobilization was announced – also an unpopular move: those who do not fight. They are being recruited.

“It’s a well-known effect: a short victorious war can ignite enthusiasm, but frustration sets in if the war drags on endlessly and does not lead to the desired results.”

A 30-year-old PR manager who gave her name only as Irina disagreed, saying she believed the situation was stabilizing after the initial exodus of Russians not only fleeing Western sanctions. There is also potential recruitment following Putin’s announcement of a nationwide partial mobilization on September 21.

The Kremlin says more than 300,000 were Russian. Joined the army. Between late September and early November, millions of mostly young Russian men left the country, often for places like Kazakhstan or Georgia.

“The first wave of panic has passed, everyone has calmed down a bit. Many have left but many remain. I am happy for the people who live in Russia and support them,” Irina told CNN. Told to

At the same time, she emphasized that she is opposed to the war in Ukraine, as it began to sink in for her, as for many Russians, that the fighting could go on for much longer. This is especially so since Ukrainian forces managed to retake the major city of Kherson from the Russian army – an area that Russia annexed in September and which Putin has said is “forever”. Will remain part of Russia.

“I have a negative attitude. I believe that any aggression or war is bad. And to say that if we don’t attack them, they will attack us is absolutely ridiculous,” Irina said of Putin’s repeated comments. citing claims that Russia was acting in self-defense in its attack on Ukraine.

Prominent Russian blogger Dmitry Pachkov, who goes by the name “Goblin” and supports his country’s military operation in Ukraine, admits that recent battlefield defeats have shaken the confidence of many.

“From the point of view of civil society, it is not good for our soldiers to leave the territories that have become part of the Russian Federation. But we think this is a strategic move and it will not last long,” ” he wrote in response to CNN Online’s written questions. Pachkov says he believes Russia will fight back vigorously and force Ukraine to a ceasefire.

Russian nationals prepared during partial mobilization are being sent to combat coordination zones following a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war on Oct. 10, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.

“The morale of the Russian army is very high,” Pachkov wrote, as he explained how he thought victory would be achieved. “The necessary strategic decisions are well known: first and foremost is the destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure. The electricity, hot water and heat systems must be destroyed,” he said.

The Kremlin seems to be following that playbook. Russian forces have repeatedly targeted electricity infrastructure in Ukraine in recent weeks, after a wave of attacks left more than 7 million people without power a week ago, according to Ukrainian officials.

Ukrainians remain defiant in the face of Russian missile attacks, however, and hopes of any negotiated end to the war are remote, even as top U.S. generals Emphasizes diplomacy.. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called for more support for Ukraine on Sunday, telling NATO allies: “We must be ready to support Ukraine for a long time.”

Asked what the mood was in the Russian business community given the prospect of a prolonged conflict, Javronkov used one word: “Despair!”

“Economists realize that if military operations continue, nothing is expected for the economy,” Jaworonkov said. Russia’s economy is now officially in recession, which he believes will only get worse.

The country’s industrial firms are having major problems replacing Western technology, which led to automobile company AvtoVAZ – the manufacturer of the Lada vehicle brand – earlier this year halting production of first and then basic electronic features such as airbags. and proceeded to produce some vehicles without anti-lock. brake system.

A Ukrainian tank is seen as Ukrainian armed forces continue to fight on the front line in the Kherson region of Ukraine on November 9, 2022.

The problems span everything from the airline industry to consumer electronics, leading former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to call for the nationalization of foreign assets.

In a rare moment of open criticism, Yevgeny Popov, a well-known journalist and member of the Russian parliament, tore Medvedev’s idea apart.

“What are we going to drive, we don’t have anything to drive. Are we going to drive rail cars?” Popov shouted down a former Russian general who supported the idea of ​​nationalization on the state-run TV talk show “60 Minutes.”

“Let’s nationalize everything, but what will we drive, how will we call, what will we do? Yes, all our technology is Western,” Popov said.

The Kremlin is promoting the idea of ​​increasing Russia’s own production alongside products and technology from allies such as China or Iran, replacing Western goods.

The Russian Foreign Ministry building is visible behind an advertising billboard displaying the letter.

On Monday, Putin opened – via video link – a turkey breeding farm in the Tyumen region. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the move as a sign of growing Russian economic independence, calling it “an important event in the president’s schedule regarding domestic breeding and the choice of the meat and poultry sector of the agriculture industry.” An important sector directly related to Russia’s food security.

But Russia’s growing isolation from the world is not necessarily welcomed by all its citizens. Film producer Lisa said she would prefer her country to end the war and renew relations with foreign countries rather than go it alone.

“I wait and hope that it will all be over because there is nothing more precious than human lives,” she said.



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