Over 90% of the Russians were sure that there wouldn't be a war with Ukraine.
February 24th 2022 was a shock for everyone.

Officially it is forbidden to use the word 'war'. What is happening in Ukraine is a 'Special Military Operation' designed to 'demilitarise and de-nazify' Ukraine. There has been no formal declaration of war and therefore, no general mobilisation.

In the first weeks after the invasion what was left of free and independent media in Russia was either blocked online, shut down or voluntarily ceased to operate in order to retain the media license. Massive fines and the threat of lengthy prison sentences were instituted to ensure compliance. Access to alternate information sources such as Facebook and Instagram were blocked, with the tech company labelled a 'extremist organisation'. During this same period, the budgets of state media outlets have tripled.

Within weeks, business relationships and economic ties that took decades to build and maintain have been severed. Over a thousand foreign companies, including giants such as McDonald's and IKEA, have closed their operations in Russia or sold their assets to Russian companies, with thousands of employees still being paid or retaining their jobs with the new owners. Yet much of Russia's industrial sector, including oil and gas production and the automotive industry, relies on imported technologies and components. This has led to a massive decline in production in the transport sector and the stalling of any new oil and gas exploration projects.

The Russian Orthodox Church, led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, has given vocal support to the 'special operation' in Ukraine which is killing thousands of people, both civilians and military. Anyone pointing out the basic, Christian commandment of 'Do Not Kill' can be slapped with a fine or a prison sentence. Parishioners are encouraged to report any anti-war sermons to higher authorities.

Since 2014 Russian society has been increasingly militarised. Army cadet units are common in secondary schools and the All-Russia Young Army National Military Patriotic Social Movement Association (or 'Yunarmiya' for short) has recruited over a million children. In all larger cities military-patriotic clubs offer extra-curricular activities for youths and a course comprising military training and intense history study is offered by colleges linked to law enforcement agencies, open to those seeking a career in the military, the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Protective Service (FSO) and the Ministries of Defence and Emergencies. Military careers are promoted as having potential 'for centuries to come', unlike other professions that are endangered by automation and other technologies. In many of Russia's poorer regions, the Army is one of the few opportunities for many young men and women and it is now possible to skip mandatory military service, a notoriously harsh environment for young recruits, and go straight to paid employment by the Armed Forces.

Many of these young recruits - some still teenagers - have been sent to Ukraine to fight after only 3 months of rudimentary training. At the beginning of the invasion many soldiers were unaware that they were going to Ukraine, some only realising they had crossed a border when they received 'Welcome to Ukraine' message on their mobile phones. The fast-track contracts often didn't make clear what conscripts were signing up to and where they would be sent. The Ministry of Defence generally doesn't comment on casualties incurred in Ukraine, having only made two public statements on the matter.

The Soviet victory over Nazism in the 'Great Patriotic War' as it is known in Russia has been revived as a guiding principle for hostilities in Ukraine where Russia's army is said to be fighting a new generation of 'Nazis'. The 'Immortal Regiment' processions, long a central feature of annual celebrations on 9th May commemorating the war, have been infused with a new sense of urgency, with large turnouts used by the government as proof of mass support for the invasion.

Museums in Moscow have opened exhibitions such as 'Ordinary Nazism' about purported Nazi influence in Ukraine and others that tell the story of 'NATO - chronicles of cruelty'. Other forms of remembrance are now outlawed. In December 2021 Russia's Supreme Court ordered Memorial, a civic rights organisation that has recorded the collective memories of the victims of Stalinism since 1989, to be liquidated and classified as a 'foreign agent'.

Over 16,000 people have been detained since 24th February for various offences including sharing anti-war comments on social media and demonstrating against the war. New laws have been promulgated that criminalises the spreading of 'fakes' and any public action that is deemed to be discrediting the Armed Forces. By 24th May a total of 146 criminal cases had been launched against people who have expressed anti-war sentiments. Amendments to laws dealing with espionage are being considered in parliament that could bring charges of espionage against anyone interacting with foreign organisations or their representatives.

The atmosphere of fear and repression has caused hundreds of thousands of Russians to leave the country by whatever means possible, often travelling overland into neighbouring countries in the European Union or countries such as Georgia, which experienced its own encounter with Russian military power. Once more, Russia is closing in on itself and turning its back on Europe and the West.
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