The war that Russians do not see

By | March 5, 2022

Masha Gessen writes:

Pushkin Square, in the center of Moscow, is a traditional site of protest. Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, on February 24th, most of the square has been cordoned off, with police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers in full combat gear stationed around its perimeter most of the day. On the first day of the war, police made hundreds of arrests in Pushkin Square; on most nights since, they have netted only a handful of people, often as soon as the protesters got off the subway. At about seven-thirty on Wednesday evening, three policemen in riot gear were dragging a young woman with a braid onto a police bus; a few paces behind them, three more officers dragged another young woman.

Meanwhile, pedestrian traffic around the square flowed smoothly and speedily. People went in and out of the Metro and a three-story H&M store. They did not stop and stare at the mute scenes of arrest. They did not seem to notice, and the not-noticing did not appear effortful. It seemed, rather, that the Muscovites going about their business and the young women being arrested inhabited different realities. The protesters lived in a world where Russia was waging a brutal, inexplicable war in Ukraine, where it was bombing residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The rest of the people in the square lived in a world where this war did not exist.

A majority of Russians get their news from broadcast television, which is fully controlled by the state. “This is largely a country of older people and poor people,” Lev Gudkov told me. Gudkov is the director of the Levada Center, which was once Russia’s leading public-opinion-research organization and which the state has now branded a “foreign agent.” There are more Russians over the age of forty-five than there are between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. Even those who get their news online are still unlikely to encounter a narrative that differs from what broadcast television offers. The state continues to ratchet up pressure on the few surviving independent media outlets, blocking access to their Web sites, requiring them to preface their content with a disclaimer that it was created by a “foreign agent,” and, ultimately, forcing them to close. On Thursday, the radio station Echo of Moscow and the Web-based television channel TV Rain, both of which had had their sites blocked earlier in the week, decided to stop operations. What the vast majority of Russians see, Gudkov said, are “lies and hatred on a fantastical scale.” [Continue reading…]

BBC News reports:

Oleksandra and her four rescue dogs have been sheltering in the bathroom of her flat in Kharkiv since the shelling began.

“When I heard the first explosions, I ran out of the house to get my dogs from their enclosures outside. People were panicking, abandoning their cars. I was so scared,” she says.

The 25-year-old has been speaking regularly to her mother, who lives in Moscow. But in these conversations, and even after sending videos from her heavily bombarded hometown, Oleksandra is unable to convince her mother about the danger she is in. [Continue reading…]

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