But for many Russians, defeat in the war in Ukraine remains inconceivable.
The majority of Russians, especially the older generations and the working classes, believe that state propaganda, which fills their television screens with images of seemingly unstoppable columns of Russian tanks advancing through the Ukrainian countryside and talk shows virulent who portray the conflict as a new chapter in their country’s fight against Nazism.
Even among the most educated and young Russians, unease over the economy and military failures has yet to crystallize into a sense of national catastrophe, half a dozen residents of the Russian capital have said. , Moscow, and provincial Siberia. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to laws that criminalize any criticism or use of the term war to describe what their country is doing in Ukraine.
Western and Ukrainian officials say thousands of Russian soldiers have already died in the conflict. But reports of the deaths have been heavily censored by the state and concentrated among working-class families, preventing local tragedies from turning into national mourning.
The Russian government’s ability to protect the population so far from the worst impact of increasingly draconian economic sanctions is another major reason why the vague unease has not turned into panic or sustained protests, according to those interviewed. .
Prices are rising steadily, but despite the withdrawal of many Western companies from Russia, basic goods remain widely available. Currency controls introduced by the government have artificially supported the rouble, creating a sense of stability even as Russia heads into economic isolation.
The longer the war lasts, the stronger the ruble becomes, said a small business owner from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, referring to emergency measures by the Russian central bank that have supported the ruble by making foreign currencies extremely difficult to trade. obtain.
Much of European airspace is closed to Russian aircraft and Russian banks have been disconnected from Western payment systems. But after the initial pause, wealthier Russians found ways to resume vacationing in popular destinations such as France and Italy, worsening an apparent sense of normalcy.
And even some Russians who say they initially opposed the invasion now say their country has no choice but to keep fighting until victory, even if it increases the risk of war. nuclear.
Many Russians believe that the war is no longer against Ukraine, but has turned into a proxy conflict with the United States and NATO, which they say are exploiting the conflict to destroy their nation.
Emboldened by Western support and successful counterattacks, Ukrainian officials are increasingly calling for the expulsion of Russian forces from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014 and which most Russians regard as an integral part of their state. At the same time, NATO is set to expand along Russia’s borders after Finland’s decision to apply for membership in the Western military alliance.
This allowed Kremlin propaganda to begin portraying the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as a defensive war for the survival of the Russian state, a moving theme in a nation that has prided itself on uniting to fend off foreign aggressors over the centuries.
If pushed to the limit, Russia will always keep fighting, said another Novosibirsk resident who opposed the invasion.