Home News Putin is selling victory, and many Russians are buying into it

Putin is selling victory, and many Russians are buying into it

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Today, the word “victory” can be seen everywhere in Moscow.

It’s projected from giant LED screens at major intersections and along highways, and written on red flags fluttering in the wind. It featured prominently in an exhibition of Western weapons destroyed on the battlefields of Ukraine and shipped back to Moscow as a trophy – where else? ——Victory Park.

Victory was exactly the message President Vladimir V. Putin, 71, was trying to convey as he was celebrated with pomp and circumstance after another election success and his troops sweep A stunning new offensive is launched in the northeast, passing through Ukrainian villages.

“As long as we work together, we will definitely win!” Putin said at his inauguration ceremony last week after taking office for the fifth time as president. Two days later, the country celebrated Victory Day, Russia’s most important public holiday, commemorating the Soviet Union’s contribution to defeating Nazi Germany in World War II.

During the first year of the invasion, many Russians were shocked and ashamed of the war. a few millions Left the country. The next year, they worried about the possibility of a second wave of turmoil.

But as the war enters its third year, interviews last week and recent polls show that many Russians appear to have learned to live with it. In Putin’s Russia, “victory” is an easy sell.

Western sanctions have caused little economic hardship. Military news from Ukraine is increasingly positive.Yes, soldiers are still returning in coffins, but Mainly targeted at families in inland areas, not among the Moscow elite. For many, the deaths, fueled by the state news media and driven ruthlessly by Putin, have only reinforced the idea that Russia faces an existential threat from the West.

“We can feel victory is approaching,” said 43-year-old Andrei, who traveled to Moscow from the Chita region, nearly 3,000 miles from the capital, to attend the May 9 holiday celebrations.

Like others interviewed for this article, he declined to give his last name, a sign of his clear distrust of Western news media.

He was among those who braved the cold and even snow to visit a collection of recently seized Western military equipment. (Ukraine also displayed destroyed Russian tanks in central Kiev). But the brash display in Moscow, with flags on the equipment showing which countries had donated it to Ukraine, fits Russia’s narrative that it is fighting the entire developed world and winning.

“When you see all this and all these flags, it’s clear that the whole world is supplying weapons and you know a world war is happening,” Andrei said. “As usual, it’s Russia against the world.”

Another visitor to Victory Park, Ivan, waited for his turn to pose in front of the rusted and charred hulk of a German Panther tank, smiling and giving a thumbs up as his friend took his picture . People jostle for a spot next to a similarly destroyed U.S.-made M1 Abrams tank.

“There’s so much talk about these Abrams, these Leopards, and what’s the outcome?” Ivan, 26, said.

“They’re all standing here and we’re looking at them and we see how they’re doing. It’s awesome!” He laughed.

The bravado displayed by Russians such as Andrei and Ivan this month reflects Putin’s assertive posture as he leads Russia to overcome economic challenges and gain greater advantage on the battlefield in Ukraine.

His inauguration included a church ceremony and a blessing from Russian Orthodox leader Kirill I, who said he hoped the president would remain in power “until the end of the century.”

About 75% of Russians, according to the independent pollster Levada Center show public support Operations of their troops in Ukraine. (Polls and other studies show that about a quarter of the population opposes the war, but protests are effectively banned, and inhibition So strong that many people dare not Admit or share anti-war or anti-government content online).

Thousands of people who fled Russia have returned. Their lives have adapted to a new normal, and the changes have actually been smaller than Westerners might imagine.

“What is this, the 13th sanction they are imposing?” Ivan said with a smile. “So far we haven’t felt anything.”

A robot made by Russia’s local version of Google Yandex, You can see the traversal Deliveries are being made on the sidewalks of Moscow. At least for now, inflation is under control. According to a report by Forbes last month, The number of billionaires in Moscow (in dollar terms) has increased so much that the city has climbed four places in the global rankings, just behind New York City.

“Most of the brands that allegedly left Russia didn’t go anywhere,” Andrei said, adding that he and his daughter planned to have lunch at a restaurant. Rename What has changed, he said, is that “society has integrated” in terms of the rationale for the war and the conservative social values ​​promoted by Putin.

Putin and others trumpeted this apparent cohesion when the official results of Putin’s scheduled election victory in March were announced, with the incumbent president receiving a record 88% of the vote, a figure that Western democracies decried as a sham.

“Russia is such a complex multi-ethnic country that to understand it and govern it you need more than just one term,” said Oleg V. Panchurin, a 32-year-old veteran of the Ukrainian war.

“If it were President Putin, then I would be happy if he was re-elected for ten terms,” Mr. Panchulin said. He said he was recently wounded by a Ukrainian drone near Zaporozhye.

Some civilians interviewed said they were pleased the president was taking a hard-line conservative stance and promoting traditional family values.

Zhenya, 36, and his girlfriend Masha expressed gratitude to the government for “finally solving LGBTQ issues” — By: prohibit The so-called “LGBTQ movement.” The pair were attending a 1940s-themed Victory Day celebration in a park in central Moscow, where participants danced foxtrots and waltzes as a live military band played.

Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia and Eurasia Center in Moscow, said that with no one credibly replacing him, ordinary Russians are increasingly likely to believe that Putin will remain in power during his lifetime.

“Everyone understands that this has been a long time coming,” he said. “The longer he stays in power, the more worried people are about who will be next and who will be worse off.”

“We are approaching a scenario where we can see the impact of Stalin and after his death people are crying because people don’t know how to live,” Mr Kolesnikov added.

Russians opposed to the government say they are increasingly concerned that things will not change until Putin dies.

“I feel a very strong sense of despair,” said Yulia, a 48-year-old teacher who was visiting the grave of the opposition politician Aleksei A. Navalny in southeast Moscow. Navalny, who died in prison in an Arctic penal colony in February, had long been considered Putin’s only possible challenger. Yulia declined to give her last name, fearing the possible repercussions.

“I don’t see any way to fix this,” she said.

“We are convinced that everything depends on the death of someone somewhere,” said Yulia’s son Pavel. His mother noticed the uniformed Russian National Guard and told him to be quiet Just around the corner; even after Mr Navalny’s death, he remains closely monitored by the government. Despite this, visitors to the tomb continue to come.

On the other side of Moscow, mourners still come to pay their respects to 145 victims The terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall on March 22 was one of the worst terrorist attacks in Europe in the past decade. Wreaths, stuffed animals and photos of the victims were placed near the destroyed concert hall.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and U.S. officials have Accusing ISIS of Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K, a branch of the group. Even so, the Kremlin has tried to pin the blame on Ukraine and the West.

One woman, who declined to give her name, said she was convinced the West was behind it — despite the fact that the U.S. had warned one in moscow impending attack. According to the Levada Center, half of respondents Believe Ukraine was behind the attack, with nearly 40% saying Western intelligence agencies were involved.

Vladimir, 26, visiting the makeshift memorial for the first time, said he did not blame the Kremlin for not heeding its warnings.

“I hope the terrorists are eliminated,” said supermarket employee Vladimir. But he said the president was doing a good job. “He works very hard.”

May God keep him alive and healthy. “He said. “If, God forbid, Putin dies, what will happen to our country? “

Anastasia Kharchenko contributed reporting from Moscow Alina Lobzina From London.

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