On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine. Governments across the West, including the United States, swiftly denounced what they called “Vladimir Putin’s war.” This can’t be a coincidental formulation.
The primary goal of the event was to highlight the contrast between official Kremlin policy and the views of the average Russian citizen. Most Russians, it was thought, would oppose going to war with a neighbour.
Russia is Losing Tens of Thousands of Outward-Looking Young Professionals
Any optimism that the Russian people as a whole would stand in opposition to the war was quickly crushed. Public support for what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine has been consistently high (70 percent or above) in public opinion polls. Putin’s popularity has risen unexpectedly, mirroring the spike that occurred after the 2014 invasion of Crimea.
Due in part to these signs, prominent personalities including Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have advocated for a visa restriction for all Russian passport holders, with an exemption for those who are at risk of physical harm or political persecution.
Russians should “live in their own world until they alter their worldview,” as stated by Zelenskyy, and border closures are the most essential sanctions. “The populace picked this government and they’re not fighting it, disagreeing with it, shouting at it,” he continued.
Some European leaders, such as Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin, have called for an EU-wide ban on tourist visas, voicing similar concerns. It’s not fair that Russians can lead a regular life, take vacations, and be tourists in Europe at the same time as their country is fighting an aggressive, terrible war of aggression against Europe. In the middle of August, Marin voiced his disapproval.
What Persons Back Putin, And Why?
There are only a few key factors to consider when trying to make sense of the Russian public’s attitude as a whole. Since February 24th, trust has been broken amongst long-married Russian couples, long-time friends have turned on each other, parents and children have stopped talking, and students and teachers have been criticising one another.
Polarization of opinion is increasing. Extreme views become more extreme over time. There is mounting evidence of social strife in Russia.
Public support for the Russian military’s actions in Ukraine has been consistently high in surveys. During the first four months of the conflict, there was little shift in the magnitude of that support.
There is no unifying theme among those who back Putin and what Moscow calls the “special operation.” (Putin loyalists, generally speaking, are pro-military.) There were 47% of Russians who “certainly supported” the Russian military’s operations in June 2022, with another 28% who “somewhat supported” those activities.