Living Under the Aggressor: What Life is like for Russians After the Invasion of Ukraine

At the time this article was written, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has entered its fourth week. As the war drags on and the Kremlin’s hope for a quick, successful invasion are dashed and sanctions on Moscow pile up, life for Russians at home deteriorate.

To gain insight into what life is like for everyday Russians, I spoke with Alexey Andronov, an International Relations student at St. Petersburg State University.  “Our society now is really divided,” says Andronov, “a majority of my friends and acquaintances are certainly against the war, but some of them find excuses for the outbreak of war.” Andronov’s comments reflect the rift in Russian society over the war. While some Russians have shown opposition to the invasion, others have lauded Putin for his actions, believing that the West is a threat to Russia and that Putin is truly saving Ukrainians from so-called “Nazis.”

The retaliatory sanctions against Putin’s actions has caused suffering amongst the Russian population. I asked Andronov how life for everyday Russians has changed since the war began. “Many innocent people … who can’t change the situation will suffer,” he says. Andronov says his greatest concern is over “the withdrawal of supplies in medical, industrial, and food sectors,” as he believes these will hit Russians the hardest.

Of course, the suffering of the Russian people does not just come from the new sanctions. President Putin has increasingly suppressed Russians’ freedom of speech. Photos and videos have circulated the internet of protesters being arrested by Russian police at even the slightest hint of dissent. It is now illegal in Russia to refer to the conflict in Ukraine as anything but a “special military operation.” Failure to abide by this law can result in three to fifteen years in prison. According to Andronov, “the war has become a nightmare.”  Despite this, Androvov believes that his generation will change Russia “for the better.” Even in the bleakest of moments, Andronov asserts that “every nightmare ends, and this one will too.”

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